Building a business certainly comes with highs and lows - sometimes in the course of a single day. Currently at the helm of my fourth startup, I have lived through just about every high and every low -- from a big funding, huge customer win and an IPO to running low on cash, letting employees go and having to change a strategy in flight. To succeed amidst the rollercoaster ride of startup life, I've learned three core lessons in leadership along the way. For anyone running a business, or thinking about their next big idea, here are three ways I've learned to thrive while running a high-growth startup.
Maintain an even keel.
Life at a startup is a lot like a rollercoaster. There are moments of exhilarating bliss, stomach-wrenching lows, and lots of loops and spirals in between that sometimes leave you wondering which way is up. However, despite the volatile nature of many fast-growing start-ups, it's important to remember to maintain an emotional equilibrium. When I'm up until midnight ten nights in a row trying to figure out how to solve a big problem, I remind myself that nothing is ever as bad as it really seems. Likewise, when we've just scored a huge new account, I remind myself that tomorrow we could lose another one. I don't let the big ups and downs get to me -- preferring to keep my eyes on the long-term vision for the company.
While it might seem obvious, entrepreneurs start companies because they believe in their core idea. Entrepreneurs see a problem and try to solve it. Often times, business builders try to do something that's never been done before, and when you push boundaries, there are bound to be naysayers. Creating a new company in an emerging market that has yet to prove its viability is not for the faint of heart, and many entrepreneurs take criticism too personally, losing faith in their original idea. Instead of listening to negativity -- and possibly pivoting into a safer space that doesn't hold a candle to your original, audacious idea -- it's imperative to continue believing in, and executing on, your original vision.
Be open to advice.
Emotionally, it can be draining to deal with negativity, as I mentioned above, but sometimes outsiders have good ideas that will help improve your business. An entrepreneur who lacks drive and passion is doomed to fail. However, an entrepreneur who operates in a vacuum with no outside guidance is equally set up for failure. Take an honest look at where your company is headed on a regular basis. Make sure your business model is sound, you're spending money wisely, and your team is capable of bringing vision to reality. If not, then be ready to make the changes necessary to succeed in the long term.
Running a startup can be the most rewarding and challenging experience in the world, but also one of the most emotionally draining. Remain calm, focused, and collected, and the daily ups-and-downs won't create a barrier for business success.