It can be easy to romanticize the life of a business founder and his or her early employees. The reality isn’t nearly as glamorous as it is made out to be. Very few of us jet set to meetings with venture capitalists only to return to loft-designed offices with sweeping skyline views.
Instead, the day-to-day work involved in building an early stage company is pretty grueling. All-nighters powered by coffee are often the norm, as are the missed contact with friends and family and the experience of extreme highs when something works followed by dramatic lows when a system breaks down.
Here are a few ways to get through those early days in one (sane) piece.
Secret #1: Be patient
You and your team have an idea for what will be the best product or service the market has ever seen. You spend days/weeks/months perfecting it. But when you go to market, it falls flat.
Have faith. As Ben Franklin once said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.” You can’t expect to put out your best work on the first try. Starting a business is a process—one that can take serious time and energy. Work hard and things will get better.
Secret #2: Commit
As member of an early-stage team, you are probably interested in a wide variety of business ideas. Maybe you’d like to start a bookstore, a management consulting firm, a construction company. Or all of the above. When deciding what type of company to start, go with the option that gets you the most excited, commit with a whole heart and don’t look back.
Try not to forget that commitment when the going gets tough. Realize (and try to embrace the fact) that your company will only survive if you and your team live, eat, breathe and sleep every single detail, especially in the early days. You can do it!
Secret #3: Embrace a smaller personal circle
Many of us have a large network of friends. We keep in touch with them on a regular basis with in-person dinners, text messages, calls and emails. But everything changes when you are a founder or employee in a company’s early stages and work takes over your life.
Especially in the first year or two of a company, it can be hard to find time to sleep, let alone schedule a lunch date with a friend. This can be distressing at first, but it is just part of the process. And in many cases, it can actually be a good thing. With less time to dedicate to personal matters, you will end up making selective choices on what friends to spend your time with. As a byproduct, your quality connections will float to the top of your radar.
Secret #4: Hire from your gut
The best startup employees are driven, flexible with their schedules, agreeable to a multitude of duties and, most importantly, insanely passionate about your business.
One more thing: They are also OK with getting paid below market rate—at least until your company hits the big time and is overflowing with cash.
These people are everywhere, but not always where you’d expect to find them. Instead of hiring straight out of a big corporation (your proposed salary may deter them anyway), spread the word about your company to people in your circle and see what happens. You may attract someone who is under qualified but overly zealous to learn new things. As long as they are teachable, you may have the perfect employee on your hands.
Secret #5: Practice flexibility
Feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall day after day? If so, sit back and think about how you can change things. Remember: your company is in its early stages and processes can be altered and product lines can be transformed.
Listen to your colleagues. If they are consistently complaining about something that needs to be changed, consider it. One small tweak may be what takes your business to the next level.
Secret #6: Try to stay healthy
Schedule time to clear your head on a regular basis with trips to the gym or even juice cleanses (Pressed Juicery is my favorite; they will deliver to your home). Take 15 or 20 minutes per day to think about what you will eat and drink (stay away from caffeine and sugar). Make healthy choices and your daily productivity will rise.
What secrets would you add to this list?
Yaniv Masjedi is the vice president of marketing at Nextiva, a leading provider of cloud-based, unified communication services. In his role, Yaniv manages the firm’s marketing and branding efforts by working to create strategies that drive awareness, strengthen the Nextiva brand and share the story of the company’s unique customer-centric culture (dubbed “Amazing Service”). Keep up with Yaniv on Twitter @YanivMasjedi.
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