Start-up shocks afflict all new entrepreneurs.
Whatever you did previously, it was unlikely you were in charge of everything from HR and finance to customer service and strategy.
So in any week a number of things can go wrong that you, as chief bottle washer, have to deal with. Get a few of these in one day and it can just feel overwhelming.
A customer fails to renew a contract. A key staff member announces they are leaving. There is an IT meltdown. Your management accounts show you are doing worse than you thought.
You can’t work out what is happening to the marketplace. Your child breaks a leg and someone has to pick him up from school EVERY DAY AT 3.15.
And don’t think that is an unusual week.
Of course you can have great weeks, but learning how to handle shocks and stress are part of maturing as an entrepreneur.
Here are my tips on withstanding the shocks. Develop a WTF Network.
Your network will consist of a wide group of people whom you can call on when you are faced with start-up shocks.
And you need a wide circle of them because you don’t want to burn them out! Your stress network should be as carefully put together as a board.
In my WTF network I have the following:
1. Listen and say nothing person
This is my husband who is so busy at work that when I call him to shout out my latest catastrophe he actually keeps typing!
How do I know? I can hear him.
But what do I care, I have got it off my chest.
2. Several mentors
These are highly experienced business people who will immediately present me with a definite solution to my problem. “This is what you have to do” they tell me.
I take their advice about half the time but often just listening to them makes it clear how I should proceed, even if it is in the other direction.
3. My board
Yes it can be tricky given the chairman hires and fires the CEO and the board influences that decision.
But your board should have people with different types of experience so you know which one to ring on any issue.
4. Industry specialists
Having mates who are lawyers, accountants, IT experts, data analysts, designers, etc is extremely helpful for those crises when you just need a second opinion.
Of course you can’t run out your office door every day letting everyone know about the latest disaster. But a few key people can become your rock if you let them.
The good news to keep in mind as you go through the start-up phase is that one day you will look back and laugh at some of the issues that seemed catastrophic but in hindsight were easy manageable.
Firstly, because you develop a much greater ability to deal with stress.
And you will look back and wonder why a particular incident seemed like the end of the world when the world actually went on without a blip.
Secondly, you have so much more experience to draw on.
Thirdly, you can trust your network to such an extent that it diminishes shock and stress as you know you can get quick suggestions, answers or simply a shoulder to lie on, or an ear to talk to.