All entrepreneurs understand that they have to slog hard in order to succeed.
They are willing to put in the sweat, toil, and tears and burn the midnight oil so that their startup can take off.
However, they often underestimate the difficulty they’re going to have with managing their emotions during their startup journey.
Running A Startup Can Be An Emotional Rollercoaster Ride
Convincing investors to give you money is not easy and when you do succeed, you’re on top of the world. Then when you realise that you’re running out of it again, you have to go through the cycle all over again – often with a new set of funders. This becomes a recurring cycle and while you do get better at it, it’s always full of suspense and anxiety, because you can never predict what the outcome of your pitch will be. Investors blow hot and cold all the time, and it’s tough to be a mind-reader.
You will have times when everything is going like a dream, but you can never be sure how long the good times will last. When things start going downhill, they can crash remarkably quickly, and you may find your customers, employees, and investors deserting your sinking ship which you are trying to do your hardest to salvage.
Volatility and uncertainty characterise a startup, and a lot of entrepreneurs find it very difficult to deal with this. It can be a lonely journey and you need to accept that. You need to learn with the fear, uncertainty, and doubt which will assail you on a daily basis.
The Good News Is That Don’t Have To Do This All By Yourself
You need to reach out to family members, colleagues, other founders, and mentors, who can help you during this difficult time.
Step number one is acknowledging the fact that you require help. This is often a big problem. Many founders are very macho and believe they should be able to tackle all the problems the world throws at them by themselves. They do not even recognise that they are not being able to cope. They try to tap into inner reserves of strength which often are not sufficient and they start cracking up, by which time it may be too late. When things aren’t going well, rather than be open and ask for assistance, founders try to cover up that they are in deep shit, which just makes matters even worse.
Along with checking the IQ of entrepreneurs, I think measuring their EQ (emotional quotient) is equally important. As Robert Kiyosaki points out,
“The C-grade students are the ones who end up employing the A-grade students, because they are better at delegating and managing.”
Founders need to be emotionally strong and self-aware, so they can cope with the challenges which crop up daily in the life of a startup. Putting out fires can drain you, and it’s hard to keep you cool and to bounce back. There are lots of down days -for example, when you find that you may not be able to pay the next month’s salaries; or when your investor refuses to honour the term sheet they signed a few weeks ago.
It’s not just about managing yourself. Running a startup means you need to build relationships all the time – not just with your investors but with your employees, your vendors, and your customers as well – pretty much everyone you come in touch with because you have to wear multiple hats.
A high EQ is what differentiates a good entrepreneur from a bad one. However, it’s one of those things which is extremely hard to measure because it’s such a soft skill. The good news is that you can get better at it by learning mindfulness and this can be a valuable armamentarium in your tool-kit.
And yes, investors need emotional maturity as well. Most of them are older, and have learned it by graduating from the School of Hard Knocks, but this is not always true.
[This post by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]