Badass Builders: The Hits We Take Along the Way
We're all a bit cuckoo-bananas, over here in growth-focused-founderland, because we kind-of-maybe-don't-totally-hate the water-torture-parts of business building.
Recently, over Instagram, I observed a founder exiting her business.
Not the kind of exit that's accompanied with glory (acquisition!), nor the kind of exit that's accompanied by heartbreak (bankruptcy!) - but the kind of exit that was the result of a decision to just... stop doing it.
The way she told her story was really lovely, but I couldn't get my head around the burning questions: why didn't she sell it? Is she becoming a lifestyle blogger? And, honestly, what is going to happen to her email list?
My obsession with her email list (typical, on and on about email again) took me out of this particular saga, and got me thinking more deeply about the hits we take along the way. See, I've built, grown, and sold a number of businesses at this point. I've also supported all kinds of founders, makers, and creators with specialized .
So I get it: it's certainly not all sunshine and lollipops.
I've personally taken brutal (brutal) hits over the last twenty years, through my entrepreneurial endeavours. The kind of hits that cause a physical reaction when I remember them.
I'm talking appalling levels of dishonesty, severe ethical malfunctions, and the kind of flat out theft that would make the swindler's mother wonder where she went wrong.
These are the hits that form the basis of what is generally perceived as founder struggle. The scammy partners. The drastically mismanaged systems. The supplier who lost us our top customers when they didn't deliver, then had the nerve to sue us when we told them not to bother billing.
From a day-to-day perspective, however, the hits are entirely different - less punch-to-the-gut and more incessant-bajillion-nudges-at-once. The delicacy of handling cash flow to maximize growth without impacting sustainability when a significant retailer self-extends their payment terms to net 90. The inadvertent inventory overstock that your best-priced manufacturer has pre-charged you for and is refusing to refund, leaving you with no choice but to sell the stuff or accept a notably higher cost-of-goods. The low performing sales rep who is suddenly related-by-marriage to a top tier prospect for your next category launch.
These little hits are the ones that really get into your soul - they're the entrepreneurial world's answer to water torture, just drip-drip-dripping a little every day, each droplet making us the tiniest bit more bananas.
Sometimes you reflect on the legit pain in the ass (not to mention the pain in the brain) that building a growth-focused business creates for its founders and you have to wonder: at what point should we all just chill the heck out and let whatever will be... be?
I know that every founder I've ever worked with has expressed this... and yet we continue to choose this path.
Because this is what it is to be an entrepreneur.
This is what makes us.
So here's the thing: as much as we hate taking the freaking water torture with the fire of a thousand suns, we... kind of don't totally hate it. Because knowing that we could not only get through them but keep pushing forth to the next level is pretty much 99% of the win.
So take those incessant little hits with a smirk, my lovably cuckoo founder friends. Take their lessons, use them to drive organizational strength, and build on. Because saying, "Well, that's it. I'm just going to slow things down and let it happen," goes against every ingrained impulse that has hit you from the time you were able to apply reason to problems.
Finally: a few business coach suggestions to smooth out the hard stuff:
- Be more open with your family and friends. Sometimes, entrepreneurs (particularly solo founders) internalize building a successful, growing business as never struggling. This kind of self-isolation can be avoided by simply sharing more honestly with the people in your life.
- Start a mastermind group. Choose a few fave founders at a similar stage of business, in non-competitive categories, and be diligent about scheduling and attending meetings. It's an excellent way to share an ultimately common journey.
- Attend an entrepreneurial event or conference. If you don't have a network of fellow builders already in play, start going to relevant events and conferences. Find your peeps. Make (authentic) contact. Stay in touch. Relate.
- Work directly with a coach. Find someone with experience coaching founders, entrepreneurs, makers, and creators - because this journey is like no other.
- Find any-way-any-how to connect with other amazing hit-digging weirdos like yourself. (IRL, ideally.)