This post is by Ken Seto, CEO/Co-Founder of Massive Damage and EndloopTO.
There’s been some really great posts on founder stress and burnout but it’s not a complete picture.
Something I’ve felt that hasn’t been covered that well is the stress on everyone else in a startup.
Founders have it rough and they take the brunt of the stress at a startup but they also stand to gain the most when things go well. It’s the roller-coaster lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves and the sacrifices we’ve willingly undertaken to chase our dreams.
It’s the early team members that also need to be considered. When you’re just starting out, you’re going to be generally pretty transparent when it comes to stuff like overall runway and burn rate. If not exact numbers, then at least key indicators of what needs to happen to make sure the company keeps going.
Some people feel they need to keep these numbers away from the team for fear of scaring them. My take is that if your product vision and company vision is strong and you’ve communicated that vision well to your team, their belief in you, the product, and the company will keep them focused.
And that being more transparent will add to that trust and ownership. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to be not too stingy with the stock options.
Here is a list of practical things you can do to reduce stress on your startup team:
- Ensure your team believes in your vision for the company and the product and makes it their own (this seems like a good topic for another post).
- With the early team, be as transparent as you can, if you’re doing it right, it will improve their sense of ownership and they deserve it.
- Make sure basic stuff like payroll, options, benefits are done properly and the paperwork is there.
- This may be obvious but having all the back-office stuff sorted out makes everyone on the team more secure that you’re on top of things. I suck at this stuff so I use a service called Scalability to take care of it.
- Crunches are inevitable in the startup world but you can make them less crazy by enforcing breaks and making time for social activities like game night, team lunches..etc.
- Celebrate the little victories.. don’t let others tell you what’s worth celebrating (and yes, raising some money is worth celebrating, it extends your runway which makes everyone happy, so screw anyone who says otherwise).
- Just be empathetic to the idea that it’s not just you that is feeling the pressure (I know this just added more stress to founders but hey, that’s we signed up for).
Anyways, this is not meant to be a definitive list, I just wanted to get some ideas out there to stir up a discussion.
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