Know the Costs of Being a Founder Before Taking the Plunge


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I founded two companies, raised over a quarter of a billion dollars and each company came out successfully. From the outside, it may seem like the founders who got it had an elegant and perfectly executed plan, but I can tell you that being a founder feels chaotic on good days and as if the world will end on bad days.

There are known challenges, such as fundraising, hiring the right equipment, creating a great product, finding a product market, and climbing, but beyond these items you will widely spoken, there are a number of elusive struggles experienced by most founders.

Here is a summary of the three main issues I experienced as a founder.

Related: Starting a Successful Startup: A Founder’s Journey

1. Personal expenses

Someone told me that life is a balance between 1) health: your personal and emotional well-being, 2) wealth: your ability to pay your bills (and probably one of the main reasons you are considering starting your new company) and 3) love. : Your personal relationships, including your partner, family, and friends. When you start focusing too much on any of these elements, one or both of the others will suffer.

Know in advance that your startup will consume everything. The commitment you’ll need to give your business to help it thrive (or sometimes just keep it afloat) will be massive and probably far beyond anything you’ve worked on in the past.

During my tenure in my last company, I sacrificed time with my son, let him go home to be with my family during the holidays, and avoided half a dozen weddings of my close friends. These relationships and personal experiences cannot be recovered, regardless of the success of your business.

You are likely to find yourself persistently in situations where the survival and success of the business depends on these constant sacrifices, and as a founder, you will usually be the one who will have to devote the extra time to ensure the survival of your business, which can come at the expense of other relationships in your life or even your personal well-being and health. You should be aware of these sacrifices before pulling the trigger to start your own business.

Related: Dear Founders: Let your spouse get into your work life

2. You are alone

People think most founders have massive support systems, but I find the opposite to be true for the companies I founded and advised; the founders are usually alone on their journey.

Think about some of your possible future struggles: If you don’t have enough cash on hand to make the payroll, sharing it with your team can cause them to get scared and start looking for new jobs. Informing your board in advance about problems you may have in fundraising can cause them to lose confidence in you, posing a risk to your role in the company.

Whether we’re talking about conflicts with co-founders, investors at risk of leaving your business, or if you’re about to lose your payroll, these are usually issues you need to resolve on your own. The role of being a founder can be incredibly isolating and lonely, so much so that rates of depression and suicide are dramatically higher between them.

3. You will make the hardest sacrifices

From the outside, looking inward, we see the founders and their companies closing big rounds of funding and minting fortunes, but the process to get there is rarely a swan song. As a founder, you will make the greatest sacrifices day after day to keep your business alive.

Last year, while running my last business, we were in the middle of selling the business – a long and painful process that involves months of diligence before a buyer cuts a check. During this time, my mother and dog had cancer and I had undiagnosed Lyme disease which caused me massive chronic fatigue. The sale dragged on for extra months, as they usually do, and the business wasn’t in cash, so I mortgaged my house and cleaned up my 401 (k) to get the company to cross the line.

There are two lessons to this: 1) No matter how difficult things are sometimes, the founder simply has to be present and can’t leave, even if his personal world is falling apart and 2) There are moments when no one else on the team. , apart from the founder, can or will make the sacrifice necessary to drive the business to overcome a key milestone.

Related: Success requires sacrifice. What are you willing to give up?

4. People will try to take advantage of you

A professional coach of mine once told me, “Whenever you build something of value, people will try to take it from you.”

I have personally experienced receiving condition sheets signed by investors for millions to then be terminated, I have had coup attempts for my work by someone I hired and trusted, and I have had associations where we had invested massive amounts. of money at launch, only for the partner to refuse to come to life and insist on renegotiating the contract in their favor once we were entrenched with them.

It’s hard to swallow these pills when another person or party has taken advantage of all the sacrifices you’ve made, but unfortunately it’s only part of the starting game, even if you have great advice and feel you’ve covered your bases. It will happen persistently during his tenure. Don’t listen to these stories because they are often so painful to tell that founders would rather not be so vulnerable as to share them.

There is a quote from Will.i.am, who is the founder of a number of companies that sums it up well: “You have to have dedication, focus, discipline, patience and passion for your craft. And thick skin. Broken heart a billion times … But what do you do? The goal is to turn a negative into a positive. “

Related: You need the endurance and mentality of a professional athlete to get it in business

So how do you mitigate all the possible negative setbacks that will come during your founding journey? You can’t advance them all, but there are some key strategies that can help you overcome some of these challenges.

First, partner with founders focused on the founders. Many investors will tell you that they are friendly with the founders, but this is a word of mouth service: you need to do your research. Ask your potential investors during the due diligence process if they occupy board seats, for example, and, most importantly, have the courage to ask yourself when was the last time they left a founder . It is also crucial to check your references by calling other founders who have funded. This will give you the context you need to incorporate a new investor into your board; and remember, if you bring an investor to your board, most investor board seats are irrevocable, so you’ll be stuck with that person for a while. a long time, so do your homework here.

Second, create a coaching and advisory board so you can address your most difficult issues. You need a city council full of people with experience as a founder, who will give you the space to vent and not judge you or sink when you hear bad news. Take advantage of this consortium to assimilate and be thoughtful when making your toughest decisions (keep in mind that for the reasons mentioned above, I don’t recommend using investors, board members, or executives as part of this board).

As a founder, you’ll find an almost endless list of obstacles to building, growing, and selling your business. And while having a team of like-minded people in your corner won’t solve all your problems, it’s a start.



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