Many would-be solopreneurs look forward to the day they can kiss their company’s bureaucratic (or dysfunctional, oppressive, frenetic) culture goodbye. They look forward to the day when they can sit in a home office in their pajamas all day and be completely divorced from any type of culture.
The only problem is, culture is always there—even when it’s you and nobody else but you. And if you want to be happy working alone, there are steps you must take to ensure that you’re creating a culture conducive to your success.
The first step is to recall the enjoyable aspects of prior workplace cultures and try to incorporate them into your routine. As an example, my favorite part of going into a large corporation every day was lunch out. I liked the way it broke up the day and encouraged me to develop more meaningful relationships with my co-workers.
So, when I started my own business in 2008, I began scheduling weekly lunches in downtown Chicago with various networking contacts, and I also signed up for one educational conference per quarter. My culture-of-one continually exposed me to new people and ideas that energized me and kept me from becoming too isolated. Here are some other ways to create a rewarding solopreneur culture:
Create Your Own Mission Statement
The worst mistake you can make is to set off on your own without a plan. An important mentor of mine, Stephen Covey, taught me to be purposeful about my work and to think hard about what I wanted to be (character), what I wanted to do (contributions), and the values I held dear. Make sure you’ve formalized your thoughts on paper so they will always guide your business’ direction. Share your mission statement with partners and clients and solicit their feedback.
Set Concrete Deadlines Every Week
Succeeding as a solopreneur requires a tremendous amount of discipline, and creating and sticking to a weekly to-do list will help you maintain a stable and productive culture. I take it a step further and assign days of the week to accomplish various tasks. For instance, Mondays are my writing days, Tuesdays are my marketing days and Fridays are my administrative and finance days.
Form an Advisory Board
In his book Who’s Got Your Back, Keith Ferrazzi suggests that the most successful leaders have an inner circle of "lifeline relationships"—deep, close relationships with a few key trusted individuals who offer the encouragement, feedback and mutual support that we need to reach our full potential and achieve our goals. This type of advisory council is especially critical when you're a solopreneur and don’t have the built-in mentorship culture common at larger organizations.
Take the Pulse of Your Own Satisfaction
Just as organizations perform culture surveys, you should regularly revisit your operation to assess whether you’re happy with the set-up and whether your solopreneur culture is facilitating your personal and professional objectives. The best thing about working for yourself is that changes and enhancements are relatively easy!
Read more articles about being a solopreneur.
Alexandra Levit is a former nationally syndicated business and workplace columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. Money Magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year, she regularly speaks at organizations and conferences on issues facing modern employees.