How Founders Sell Themselves Short

As a founder, how do you get out when you are squeezed into a corner just because you care so much? “OK, maybe I need to make an effort to make this work; maybe it’s just me who wants things my own way; maybe I’m too demanding of everyone.” You can’t always have it your own way is the usual response? If you’re a founder, I guess you can relate.

A friend of mine. She went through a fundraise recently. One might say it’s the usual thing. Others might say it’s the sole purpose when building a business. She was impacted inside—you could see it right away. Like so many founders so many times before.

Why do so many founders go through the same experience trying to build a company. The same pain, doubt, stress, sleepless nights and shaking legs. It’s like running against the wind.

We met on a sunny day   out Shoreditch. We chatted about the stress she’s going through fundraising—and how to manage your team at the same time. Is the passion in fact a curse? It pretty much comes down to the same kind of stuff—worries, dwelling, doubts, second thoughts and that seemingly disappearing sense of darkness and sower aftertaste that just won’t go. All this while anxiety, depression and burnout are just waiting around the corner.

When you build a company from scratch you are prepared to take a blow—a lot of blows. You are willing to take sacrifices you wouldn’t otherwise. You are willing to put you passion first — before yourself, before your sanity. You are willing to treat your mind as a laptop and your body as a tool.

And when you do that, people can take advantage. It is something that others will sense—investors, freelancers, sometimes even your team members. If you feel desperate to build a company you will be ready to take on more, make more compromises and even go to the point of willing to be extorted for it.

Managing people whilst building a business is hard. So many founders strive for honesty. They think everyone is truthful and speak facts, actual thoughts and conveys their actual feelings. And so many founders have gotten a bumps on the head believing it.

The level of dedication is never as high as you expect and there always seemed to be a problem with catching that train in the morning or a failing red signal. You never get all of those late night emails that people say they’re working on. The dedication of your team is not the same as yours—and there is a reason for that. It’s not their business — it’s your business.

(Related reading: Changing Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Change)

When you’re desperate and depend on other people’s work, you will sometimes see people take advantage of that. They will see how bad you want it to happen and they will try and squeeze that last drop out of you. And usually founders fall for this. How would they not when in your eyes it’s either that or nothing? So, you give in and get used.

But if you step back and think “Is this deal really what my entire business depends on? Is this person I depend on so much today in fact someone that has the power to shift between me making it or not?” you will surely see all other options you have.

(Related reading: Success Has a Problem with Definition)

Come to think of it, would you be willing to build a business that depends on one person, one agency, employee or one launch date. That’s not a business—it’s a project. It is not sustainable. Let alone is it scalable.

So, as you will often feel desperate there is a limit to what you should allow others do to you. There is a limit to how you should allow others treat you. There should be a point when you refuse others to take advantage of your desperate passion to make it.

When you do that, you will see that the control of the situation switches back to you.

Take control!