Are micro-businesses socially isolated?

Bill, at Writelife, recently wrote a thoughtful post on the social aspect of work. It is well worth reading. His viewpoint on micro-businesses was interesting and I feel it is worth an extended discussion.

Bill wrote: "Much depends on the kind of micro-business you choose, but I think to a large extent you work in isolation."

I think that connectedness or isolation is determined more by one’s personality than one’s choice of business. It may also have to do with the social patterns of the time and of the area in which you live.

During my first twenty years of employment, my work was my social life. My coworkers and I  ate lunch together almost every day and our families socialized on weekends. This was true in at least seven different companies during the Fifties and Sixties.

As I moved up the management ladder in the Seventies and Eighties, I found that the socialization was more on the order of business lunches and occasional company parties. There wasn’t a lot of off-the job socializing.

In the Nineties and in the new Millennium, work socialization seemed to change again. The industries I worked in had little camaraderie outside of project meetings. Many of the employees I knew ate at their desks alone or went out to lunch with friends from other companies. This seemed to be true for employees of all ages.

In my last high-tech company, most on-the job socializing took place at lunch in the company cafeterias. A great deal of bonding took place in this environment and lunch time was often an opportunity to see old friends from other divisions.

Because of work pressure, there was little other time for socializing, except in project meetings. I formed strong friendships as a result of projects I worked on, but these friends were located all over the country. Because we were so scattered, most of our relationships were maintained by email or phone.

Now that I have businesses of my own, I enjoy a close relationship with customers and suppliers and most of them have become fast friends. Because there is so much networking involved in running a micro-business, there is far more opportunity for socializing at every level than I experienced during my corporate career.

I may work out of my home, but there are few days when I don’t have visitors. In addition, I receive daily emails from bloggers in distant, and often exotic locations. When I go out to buy supplies, that is a social event in itself. In this part of Virginia, the pace of business is such that suppliers are interested in what I create with the materials I buy from them. Some have even put up pictures of my latest designs in their stores and showrooms.  This kind of direct feedback helps me get a better perspective of what people like about my designs.

I felt that I worked in isolation for my last few years in high-tech. Now, I am in the heart of an expanding group of friends. It’s not unusual to be greeted while working out at the local fitness center and asked to propose a design for something new. I even have people who are walking their dogs stop to see what I am doing in my workshop. Some of these have become repeat customers.

I love running a micro-business! There are all kinds of challenges and risks to confront, but isolation and lack of social contact are not part of the picture.

How do other micro-business owners feel about this?

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0 Responses to Are micro-businesses socially isolated?

  1. John says:

    If anything, I think that as a micro business owner you reduce islotation.

    At the very least, because these busineses are often home-based, they can diminish social isolation with family and home community. Good deal.

    I used to spend more time with my co-workers – by far – than my family, and knew almost no-one from my community. Not any more.

    And Im convinced that withdrawl from the working fray can be personally AND professionally useful: you get a better chance to see and realize your value when you work in a smaller less herd-like situation.

    I sometimes miss getting down to a difficult problem with my old corporate cohorts, or joking over coffee, or chatting over the odd lunch. But maybe any wistfulness thereis like the wistfulness of a newly wed occassionally feels when he thinks about his bar buddies days.

  2. Lloyd says:

    It all depends on the type of business you’re in. My business tends to be socially isolating. Oh, I have constant e-mail conversations with clients, but very little face-time. I’ve had clients in other parts of the world, I’ve never met in person. I’ve had clients I’ve worked with for years before I ever met them in person. Even today, I have clients locally that I do repeat work for, yet our personal contact is minimal–we do everything over the internet. Yes, I stop by their office from time-to-time, but they are very busy people who don’t really like surprise visits. I have to go out of my way to interact with people–which I try to do on a regular basis. My work can be very lonely if I let it. I am, however, getting to know my neighbors rather well, because I work out of my home.

  3. Myke Myers says:

    I am socially isolated due the long hours required to be successful in the software business. Since I don’t have much time to get out and meet with people face-to-face, I use RSS feeds from my favorite weblogs to stay current with fresh ideas and business/technology innovation. Also, I have a wi-fi phone headset that allows me to talk to friends while I do other things, such as taking the cat out. I try to have an in-depth conversation with several friends each week.

  4. Mark Nemtsas says:

    Short answer, yes. I do my work in almost complete isolation to anyone. I treasure the times when I can talk marketing with my wife, as they are the only real face-to-face conversations I have concerning any aspect of my business. To give you some idea of how little contact I have, I was actually excited last week when a customer actually rang me on the telephone!
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: writers, friends and work
    URL: http://writelife.typepad.com/blog/2004/07/i_just_got_back.html
    IP: 10.0.20.1
    BLOG NAME: writelife
    DATE: 07/03/2004 01:58:27 PM
    I just got back from a few days working in Vancouver, so I’m in catch-up mode now. I saw a recent post on another blog and realized that when I wrote about the social aspects of work I had my

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