“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” –Zig Ziglar
There’s something lonely about starting and running a business. Sometimes it feels like you have to carry your business on your shoulders – succeed or fail on your own – and it can be a heavy load, especially when things aren’t exactly going your way.
It was during one such lonely moment that I got a call from Steve. An acquaintance from church and an immensely successful businessman, Steve is about twenty years my senior. He asked if we could meet over coffee, which I gladly accepted, though I wondered what he had in mind. He asked if we could drive together and volunteered to pick me up from the office. We drove to the Norfolk Hotel along Harry Thuku Road and took seats at the far end of the Lord Delamere Terrace, overlooking Nairobi University’s Gandhi Wing and the Kenya National Theatre.
After about ninety minutes of coffee, bites, and a hearty conversation of getting to know each other and discussing everything from work and business to church and politics, it was time to go. I was still waiting to hear what the real agenda for the meeting was, but Steve said nothing about that. He dropped me back at the office and asked if we could meet again in two weeks.
Surprisingly rejuvenated for no particular reason that I could pinpoint, I sat at my desk with a clear mind and figured out some important issues that had been quietly hounding my mind for a while. Refocused, I worked long into the evening, and that night I slept soundly; the sleep of a man who has put down a heavy load, having made a major decision that I had been considering for a long time.
The coffee meetings with Steve were the start of a long-term friendship that has remained invaluable to date. It took a while for me to understand the reason for the transformation that had resulted from my time spent with this more accomplished businessman. He was investing his time in me, a younger person. He was not only giving me quality time, but also keeping me accountable on my life and plans by asking me those insightful questions. This was a turning point for me in understanding the value of the company we keep.
What kind of company are you keeping as an entrepreneur or business leader? And, just as important, what kind of company are you to others who are perhaps trying to tread the same path you have walked? Does the company you keep leave you feeling more inspired? Have you spurred anyone lately? Every entrepreneur needs some degree of outside support, especially from people who believe in your ideals, and who can embolden you during those lonesome moments.