Sometimes you feel like the pressure is difficult to bear. You feel like there’s too much to do, not enough time to do it, and what you’re doing isn’t producing results.
The resulting stress that each of us feels is exacerbated if you’re a founder who is responsible not only for his individual output but also the output of each of his team members. If they perform, you win as a team. If they don’t, it’s on you for not selecting the right people and motivating them.
At stressful times like this, it’s useful to imagine how the opposite extreme feels like. Imagine that you’re not doing anything and therefore have no responsibilities and no stress. For most of us, we don’t need to imagine this because we’ve lived this at some point in our lives.
The emptiness initially feels boring and eventually becomes painful.
So, the question is not whether you should give into the pain of stress, which is most easily done by giving up. The question is whether you choose the pain of stress or the pain of emptiness.
One of the toughest challenges that entrepreneurs face is understanding their role in the company. Specifically, many entrepreneurs try to have all the answers themselves and try to either get everything done themselves or sign off on everything that gets done. This is especially true for first-time entrepreneurs.
You can get by with this approach for the first few weeks of your startup while you’re working on the idea and the product (if you’re a developer), but that’s about it. Once your company starts to grow, you need people to help you decide what to do (at least on most topics; the ultimate decision for very important topics can rest with you) and do it.
If you think about a company as an organization that takes inputs (customer demands, market conditions, …) and builds outputs (product, pricing, marketing strategy, …) to best respond to these inputs, your role as entrepreneur is to be on top of the inputs, provide an environment where your team can openly debate what the outputs should look like, and support your team as they build and deploy the outputs. Your role is not to single handedly decide on what each output should look like (although you can have the final say on very important issues), and it is certainly not to build the outputs.
Internalizing your role has two big benefits. The first is that it makes you more likely to succeed. The second and equally important benefit is that it makes you less stressed at work. The stress won’t go away, as being an entrepreneur is very stressful. But it will make it more likely that you build the great team that’s necessary to lower the pressure on you. And the less stressed you are, the more likely your company will be to succeed.