Lonely at the Top: Who Can CEOs Talk To?

By Michael Weiss

We have all heard it before; it’s lonely at the top, and I don’t mean Randy Newman’s 1972 hit song by the same name. I’m of course referring to that painfully-isolating feeling that many business leaders, especially CEOs of startup companies, inevitably experience during times of difficulty. Sure, friends and family are usually available to lend an ear, but often they tend to be more protective than objective. Even more likely, many entrepreneurs don’t feel comfortable sharing everything with their personal inner circle. So who can CEOs talk to and why is it worth finding a sounding board?

For nearly a decade at the UCF Business Incubation Program, I have encouraged our CEOs to not only share their successes with me, but also their frustrations and challenges. From having to fire an employee for the first time, to disputes among business partners, to simply feeling like they don’t know what they’re doing; I have heard it all. As uncomfortable and vulnerable as it may be, I have never had a CEO regret opening up to me about those things. In fact, I have had numerous entrepreneurs describe these talks as therapy. Mental wellness is incredibly important, and if all you achieve by talking to someone is some level of catharsis, then do it.

While talking to someone can certainly boost your well-being, there are also tangible benefits that can boost your business. I have seen CEOs gain clarity and knowledge; receive warm introductions to key contacts; referred quality candidates for job openings; attract board members and more.

So how does one find a business coach, mentor, advisor, peer-group, etc.? Fortunately, Central Florida is home to an abundance of non-profit entrepreneurial support organizations, such as the UCF Business Incubation Program, that help facilitate these types of connections and conversations. There are also local CEO peer groups. Beyond the region, the U.S. Small Business Administration, as well as some industry associations offer mentor-protégé programs. The options and possibilities are endless, you just need to start looking for your sounding board.