“Though I walk through the valley of start-ups, I will fear no bankruptcy, and competition will not destroy me”.
If I were running a tax-exempt company, perhaps that would be my facetious battle cry.
The start-up scene in Australia is thriving like never before.
Almost every second person I meet has their own concept they are about to take to market, and entrepreneur and leadership gatherings – whereby one hopes to turn a business card exchange into an eventual equity exchange – punctuate the corporate calendar with increasing frequency.
In 2013 Inc Journalist Jessica Bruder, wrote an article that relates the struggles many entrepreneurs go through – and that very few want to discuss. She writes, “It's like a man riding a lion. People think, ‘This guy's brave.' And he's thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?” Personally, I couldn’t relate to this analogy more. When I have the opportunity to discuss what my company has achieved, I make a point to discuss the hardships as well as the wins. The concept of being an entrepreneur and leading a start-up is often so romanticised that people get into it without really realising what they are taking on. The gulf between a passionate idea and a commercially viable strategy involves many twists, turns and disappointments, and unfortunately success can only be achieved by people with a certain type of psychology.
I believe it’s a myth that everyone can and should launch a start-up, because the truth is, that so many people wouldn’t want what the reality entails – if only they knew what that was. There are many responsibilities and sacrifices that are required when you launch a start-up. For instance, it has been sometime since I have heard the phrase “I am not contactable after 5pm”. In my working life, that concept simply does not exist. It’s not uncommon for someone from my team to text me at 6am buzzing with ideas, or for a group of us to jump on Skype on a Saturday night to discuss the upcoming week’s strategies.
A huge lesson for me, especially in the early days, was to understand the different people I would be dealing with, and how to hire the right employees. Human relations can be hard, but it’s important – for both the individual’s efficacy and the company’s success – to put people in positions that they will thrive in. It’s also important to know your own weaknesses, and then ensure that you have the right people to support you in those areas.
Over time I have found that the threads of my personal life and work life have slowly become interwoven. Personally, I find this way of life satisfying and that it works, but I acknowledge that it’s not for everyone.
Leading through the valley of a start-up means taking on board criticisms and accepting that an idea in its current form may not be working, just as much as it means celebrating when a milestone is achieved. The ability to discern what is needed for the betterment of the company, including getting the right people on board, ultimately makes the start-up valleys a bit less burdensome and the peaks and achievements far more fulfilling.