Once during a very candid discussion about the future of our business and partnership, I explained to a former business partner how I felt like I couldn’t connect on a personal level very well with him and felt relationally undervalued. I was putting in 80 to 100 hours per week to build the company—blood, sweat and tears—not to mention many thousands of dollars to boot.
Later in the conversation, he confided that he could really identify with that. He remarked, “It’s lonely at the top.” That really hurt because I always felt that we were “at the top” together—not one above the other, but equals. Evidently, that sentiment wasn’t shared.
Ultimately, the partnership didn’t work out for relational reasons. The business was growing, but the relationship disintegrated. It was really sad to me, because he was probably the most talented designer I’ve ever worked with—and I’ve worked with some really great designers.
In some of my darkest times during that partnership, I found much comfort and perspective from meeting for coffee with a well-established businessman whom I greatly respected. His insights proved invaluable in navigating those cold, treacherous waters. Surround yourself with people who have been where you are, know the way out and have gone where you want to go.
That’s kind of a downer story, but I say all this to encourage you to connect with your business partner(s) at every level you can. It’s much like a marriage; it takes a lot of work from all parties involved to keep it alive, healthy and growing. If you’re a solopreneur, that situation almost demands a regular meeting with folks who can support you through your company’s growth trajectory. Business is a team sport, even if you’re a one-man shop. No man (or woman) is an island.