6 ways to stay sane as a start-up founder

Don’t become a victim of your own quest for success - manage growth sensibly and take the time to switch off every now and again

The joys and rewards of starting up a successful business are many, but the pressure of responsibility you have to employees and clients and the need to be constantly ‘on’ can leave you feeling like your business is threatening to take over your whole life.

New companies especially need constant attention, but not allowing yourself to switch off could result in you burning out.

The following six steps could help you stay sane as a start-up founder and keep you at the top of your game for years to come…

1. Find a mentor/confidante outside of the business

As a founder it’s very easy to become blinkered and set on your vision if you don’t have regular feedback or anyone to bounce ideas off. Your employees may not have a vested interest and may feel reluctant in providing honest feedback in the early days. It’s good to have someone that you can talk to outside of the work environment, such as an ex-colleague or manager that you respect and value the opinion of. As they are not embedded in your business, they may see things from a different perspective and have some fresh approaches that you haven’t considered.

2. Don’t take negative feedback to heart

When you launch a product or service you will think it’s great, friends and family will offer support and encouragement and your team will all be positive. Once it hits the market there will always be people who pick holes in what you’re doing; they may not like your branding, how your product works or question your pricing – some of these will be really valuable in your evolution but some can set you back. As a founder, your business is very personal and often a reflection of you, but you have to know when to step back and realise that you can’t please everyone. Just be flattered that they have noticed you and taken time to comment!

3. Scale up slowly and don’t be scared to scale down

Often businesses will scale up rapidly because they have investment, but be cautious in your growth: only recruit in areas where you’re struggling or there is a strong business case. At the same time, don’t be afraid to scale down if circumstances change – that will relieve the ongoing pressure of cash flow which can be a huge burden on a founder and CEO.

4. Trust your team

It is very tempting when it’s your own business to try and own or at least oversee every task in the business. When you start out you’ll probably go it alone, taking care of product development, branding, marketing, customer service, invoicing and much more; but as you grow you’ll start to hand over these tasks. As long as you hire smart people with good experience then you should be happy to let them work without being too hands on, so you can focus on business growth, strategy and future plans. Your team will need you to be on top of this as much as you need them to manage day to day tasks; as soon as you get back into the detail you lose focus on your main goals.

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5. Make time for family and friends

If you have started your own business you’ll be passionate, determined and very driven, but it’s possible be so focused that you forget that normal everyday life carries on around you. Before you know it, years have flown by and you’ve lost touch with people or missed things that you regret. There is no doubt that your business is important, but make time to keep these connections alive so that you are not all work, work, work.

6. Switch off

Everywhere around us there are messages about work-life balance – and although it can sound like a dream when you are a running your start-up, there are clear and proven benefits to switching off, clearing your head and coming back to work after some time out. Set time aside each day for a walk (even if to the office), invigorating exercise to rid you of pent up stress, or gentle yoga where you’ll focus your mind away from work. If that’s a push, try just 10 minutes a day of meditation using an app such as Headspace. These will all help to reset your mind and make the rest of your day more positive and productive.

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