How to keep perspective in the face of challenges
3 Difficult Days Every Founder Will Encounter (and How to Get Through Them)
As a new founder, some days are harder than others.
At the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you lack the perspective that can help alleviate your stress. So when a problem rears its head, you become totally fixated on it. It’s all you can think about.
Six months later, it’s a distant memory.
But it’s difficult to have that perspective in the moment. It’s hard to realize that by facing challenges, you’ll come out on the other side even stronger and smarter.
I can’t tell you exactly how to get through every difficult situation you’ll encounter as a new founder. But I can offer some advice on how to handle a few of the most common problems founders face.
1. When fundraising goes wrong.
Raising money is one of the most anxious and agonizing times for a founder.
When we were raising our Series A round for ThirdLove back in 2015, we briefly negotiated with the venture capital firm Binary Capital. We hadn’t quite nailed product-market fit at the time, which made raising money even trickier.
When the firm finally gave us their term sheet, it contained a clause requiring us to revest all of our equity–they wanted us to start from zero. That’s unheard of, and it put us between a rock and a hard place: take their money and this ridiculous clause or take our chances on finding funding elsewhere.
I can remember breaking down into tears, feeling utterly exhausted and depressed, after one late-night phone call with them. Thankfully, we ended up telling Binary to go pound sand, and one of the investors from our seed round led our Series A round. A couple of years later, we learned one of the founders of Binary had been sexually harassing women in their portfolio, so the decision not to give in and take their money turned out to be even better in retrospect.
Raising funding can be a tense, exhausting process. But as a new founder, don’t compromise on your values. Keep your self-worth in mind, and look for partners you feel comfortable working with.
2. When someone important resigns.
Back in January, our Head of Data left to pursue another opportunity. It was a tough loss for our team. He was very well-liked, extremely smart, and a reliable sounding board for all kinds of ideas.
The hardest part was that there was nothing we could do to make him stay. He was gracious and thoughtful when explaining why he wanted to shift to a different industry, and we couldn’t change his mind.
When someone important leaves the company, you have to remember that you can only control your own thoughts and actions. All you can manage is the message you give your team and the plan you create to move forward.
And the reality is, even losing someone great can still turn into a good thing for your business. It opens up an opportunity to find another amazing person who brings a different set of experiences, promote from within, or change the way you structure your organization for the better.
3. When you get down on yourself.
Most of us are over-connected. And our constant state of connection increases our natural human tendency to compare ourselves to others, whether it’s news of an acquaintance’s success or an Instagram post from Italy.
As a new founder, the urge to compare is often amplified. You constantly see stories of massive raises, exits, and IPOs in the news, and it’s tough not to turn a critical eye on your own business.
But just as it’s ridiculous to compare your life with someone’s vacation photos, comparing companies or timelines is never worthwhile. Ask any founder at a successful startup if they’re enjoying a worry-free existence, and you’ll realize those press releases don’t tell the whole story.
Instead of getting down on yourself, try reframing the way you think about your business. Spend more time focusing on what actions you can take or what goals you can accomplish. And you’ll naturally become more positive. All you’re seeing is the fruit of your own labor–no comparisons necessary.
It might seem as if you’re running from one problem to the next as a new founder, but the good days will outweigh the bad. And while the challenges get bigger as your company scales, you’ll also continue to gain perspective.
Today’s problem will be next month’s learning experience. And in a year, you’ll have to think hard to remember what you were so worried about.