𝗙𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁, 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗥𝗲𝗻𝗲𝘄
Updated: Aug 5
Sometimes, startup life can kick our ass.
As a founder, you’ll often get mentally jabbed by vicious customers, overbearing investors, and disruptive employees.
Let’s focus on each step in the combination to move forward: fight, recuperate, and renew.
There’s planning and then there’s fighting.
“𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒔 𝒂 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒏 𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒍 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒑𝒖𝒏𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒖𝒕𝒉.” – Mike Tyson
Sometimes, the fight is brief, like when a customer quits and then tears you apart on social media. In these cases, take a breath and formulate a thoughtful response. People will gauge your character in how you treat others.
Sometimes, the fight is protracted (e.g. aggrieved ex-employee). You need to respond firmly while continuing other aspects of the business. During a long bout, seek help from others in your corner. Whether you need specific advice or tending to wounds, don’t ignore the damage.
Even if it’s clear when you need to keep fighting, it may be foggy when you need help.
When the fight is done, you may be tempted to quickly move forward as if nothing happened.
The fight may cost you time and money (observable symptoms) and may leave you feeling doubtful and anxious (underlying damage). Take some time to face the damage. While our instinct is to turn from pain, try to address it directly.
With a cut, you could just apply a bandage, but first you should sterilize the wound to prevent infection even though that will sting. After some rough rounds, acknowledge what happened and address its impact on you as a way to sterilize the emotional wounds.
This self-review may feel uncomfortable but will make you stronger.
Both a good fighter and a good founder learn from their mistakes and apply those lessons for resilience and growth. Follow these steps to prevent a recurrence and to scale the business:
Reset. Run an honest assessment of what happened to determine the root cause. Plan to revise your infrastructure if needed.
Reorder. Maybe the fight exposed a weakness in process and/or team. Change people’s roles and responsibilities and build long-term systems.
Re-imagine. The fight may seem like a vulnerability but actually may open an opportunity.* Many startups found success after a disaster.
Feeling fatigued and anxious is normal in startups but is heightened after a tough bout. Use your wounds to motivate the change needed. How you respond and adapt will define your future much more than the immediate damage.
Face a fight with confidence that you will persevere and likely even grow.
* At one company I ran business operations, there was an accusation of sexual harassment that impacted the whole team. In my second week. Initially, I was completely stressed. However, I realized that this problem gave me the opportunity to set expectations. The business was growing quickly, and I could use this crisis to set the tone as we shifted from a group of people hanging out together to a formal company.
To address the charges, I spoke with many people and made it clear that while I would not be sharing details, this type of alleged behavior is not acceptable and will be addressed. I emphasized that for us to grow, we already will be facing a lot of stress and didn’t need any more. The incident became a catalyst to talk about working together productively.
Photo by Ron Lach who can be found here: https://bit.ly/3QznyKv