Being a founder or a co-founder is a surreal experience. Don’t believe me blindly, talk to the people that you know and ask how they feel being a parent to a startup. You will get different kinds of answer, with one thing in common — the feeling and experiences are incredible.
But it can also be very taxing. As a founder myself, I am always on this roller coaster of highs and lows which operates at its own whim.
If I had to exaggerate; only if I had to, I would say that the highs are no less than the waves we saw on planet Miller in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and the lows are deeper than the Mariana Trench.
For example, there are outstanding moments that one witnesses as a founder –
The first moment when product starts working
The first sale
The first client
The first positive and emotional customer review
The first full time team member who believes in the idea as much as you do
The first investor pitch
The first cheque from investor
But there is a whole another side to this story too — Rejections and Failures.
Facing rejections is so common in the startup world that it’s not even a novelty anymore. But I am still going to mention it because, for founders, rejection is the first truth.
Rejection is the first truth people learn in startups
While all this is happening, one thing that gets compromised easily is happiness. And this is what I want to bring attention to.
I personally follow 6 rules to remain peaceful and happy while I succeed and fail at running my 2 startups at Zymrat and ThoughtDisrupt. Here they are –
1. Embrace what you have now instead of chasing more –
Every startup could use more resources. More funding, bigger team, more products, bigger offices and what not. A lot of startups get these as well, but it takes time, hard work and a lot of perseverance.
It’s crucial to work with the resources that are available now, and not stress about what is not there. If there are only 2 people in the company, these 2 people should be the most important asset.
I have met people who are constantly stressed because of lack of funds or team in their startup. And as a founder I understand it. I have been there and I am still there. There isn’t a single week which passes by without leaving an opportunity due to lack of money, products or team strength. But instead of stressing about the missed opportunities, I focus on building great products, creating value and providing unmatched service with the resources that I have.
In order to be stress-free and happy, this is what every founder’s focus should be — to not get deterred by the lack of things and focus on what can make the business valuable.
2. Don’t regret what could have been –
I firmly believe that every founder has a list of things that could have gone in her favor if it was done differently. I have quite a few experiences myself.
Instance 1: The first launch in my fashion startup was delayed by months because of medical emergencies in my family. It broke me and my team emotionally and financially. But we got through it with a successful launch and great customer reviews.
We also realized that the issues that delayed the launch were beyond our control; there was no point fretting over them. We instead chose to take a lesson of having a bigger lead time before launch.
Instance 2: My first investor meeting will always haunt me. I was sweating before I entered the building. I could not give proper answers to the questions, even though I knew how we were better than others. I was nervous. But will I ever regret going to that meeting? Never. That meeting was one of the most exciting meetings I had ever had till that time.
There were people in a big meeting room listening to me pitch for the first time. Nothing could beat that, irrespective of whether I failed or succeeded.
I learnt lessons worth of a lifetime in that single meeting. I learnt that I was not ready and I needed to prepare more. That meeting made me work harder and prepare better.
There could be countless such incidents —
not being able to hire someone, not being able to go to an event, not getting a project, not joining a community, not starting on time;
We can either choose to sit down and regret or we can stand up and take actions. And trust me, taking action will make you happier.
3. Make your weakness your strength –
I am a sensitive human being. I get attached to people quickly.
Being sensitive is often considered a weakness for the right reasons; especially in scenarios where someone has to be fired or the company has to be shut.
Being able to take such harsh decision is an essential trait to qualify as a founder, but empathy and emotion are the essential traits to qualify as a human. One must learn how to balance.
While the numerous rejections and failures in and out of the startup world have made me the hustler that I am today, my tendency to attach with people and care for them will stay with me forever.
People may consider it a weakness, I consider it my strength. This is what makes my company human, this is what makes us understand that the person on the other side of Sales/Service Call/Email is a human too, and this is what disables us from compromising on our product quality no matter what; we as a team at Zymrat will hurt more than our customers if we make a bad product.
There are no set rules and traits for running a business, irrespective of what articles or books may have taught us. Make your weakness your strength and make your own rules.
4. Take care of yourself –
Your company’s health is only as good as yours. If you don’t care about yourself, how can you claim that you care about your company and customers!
I recently did a mini survey on LinkedIn on fitness and health among founders/co-founders. At least 60% of them said that they don’t get enough time.
In my experience, spending time with myself routinely improves my focus resulting in greater efficiency.
I have slogged as well, and I still do. There are some days when I cannot help. There could be 50 emails, 20 Calls, 5 meetings. It could also be possible that all days in the coming week or the month look like this, but in such cases, it is your responsibility to take some time out, cancel a meeting or reschedule a call and go for running, gym, yoga, meditation or any activity of your choice.
In the beginning, this might feel like a lot of effort, but once you get past 3 weeks of doing this, you will realize that such activities improve your efficiency and productivity contrary to the belief that they take too much time.
Taking care of yourself also extends to eating well and spending time with your family and loved ones. If you are not doing that, you are clearly devaluing your relationships and sooner than later it is going to reflect in your customer relationship as well. Read a book by yourself, play games with your kid, take your mom to lunch, go hiking with dad, spend a birthday with your siblings — show them that you care.
5. Do or Delegate. Don’t procrastinate.
Procrastinating on a task is easy, but for me, it is also one of the most depressing feelings. As soon as I postpone something, I feel like I have done something wrong.
There are 2 ways to take care of it. Do or Delegate.
It doesn’t mean that you have to get it done immediately; you can just put it on a whiteboard or a to-do list, or create a reminder.
If you have to get something done by your team, start the communication immediately. Send a message, an email or schedule a call.
The intent is to make sure that the task at hand doesn’t get lost.
I personally like to maintain a whiteboard to-do list and task reminders on my phone. It gives me peace of mind.
Procrastinating may seem easy and you may be doing it without even realizing, but it leaves you with the feeling of being blocked and incomplete. Stop procrastinating, start doing.
6. Appreciate, Encourage and Show Gratitude
I cannot stress this enough.
If you are not appreciating people around you, encouraging them to do new things and showing gratitude towards what they have done, you can never be at peace with yourself.
Now that I have written the article and recorded my videos, I realize that this should be the first rule. It is extremely important in any business to appreciate everyone who is putting in the effort and making sure that their personal time, space and goal is respected and supported.
When someone comes to you with their idea or a product, take some time to give them an honest feedback. Appreciate what they have achieved, connect them with people from relevant industry if you can.
Helping, Appreciating and Encouraging people in your startup is one straight road to happiness.
That’s about it. 6 simple rules to stay happy and peaceful while running your startups.
I have experienced that my state of happiness affects my team and the company overall and I am not ready to compromise on that. As I keep learning, I will make another list and another set of rules to make sure that my startups keep functioning smoothly.
I hope that you find value in this article and share it with your fellow startup community members.
If you would like to get in touch with me, look for “Ujjawal Asthana” on social media channels and ping me there. I will respond 🙂