The appeal of owning a business can be alluring. The freedoms to make your own decisions and to do what you want, when you want and with whom you want to are glamorous enough to compel any type “A” personality into breaching the entrepreneurial world.
At first glance, becoming your own boss or president of a company has its advantages -- one of which is being addressed as “Mr./Mrs. President.” Then again, if you have a last name like “Boss,” that title just becomes redundant. Of course, “President Boss” has a nice ring to it (that’s a joke).
Anyway, the advantages of calling the shots are attractive, but with advantages also come challenges.
Being at the top of the mountain means one thing: You can stay there for a while, but sooner or later you have to come down. The truth is that nobody stays king or queen of the mountain forever, and there are two ways to return back to ground level: climb down or fall down.
To mitigate the potential for falling, here are four pitfall traps to be aware of before you start “climbing”:
1. It’s lonely at the top.
A survey cited by Harvard Business Review reveals that 50 percent of CEOs report feelings of loneliness. Additionally, of this group, 61 percent believe that their loneliness is performance inhibiting. Notably, first-time CEOs are especially susceptible to this isolation as almost 70 percent of these first-time leaders report that their perceived isolation negatively affect their performances.
There’s an easy solution here: when in doubt, talk it out. Whatever you do, don’t bottle up your frustrations, because at some point, that emotional baggage will unload itself at the most inopportune time (and likely on a poor, innocent soul who’ll forever hate you).
2. Unexpected challenges arise -- daily.
The good thing about change is that it’s consistent. The bad news is it’s consistent. As a leader, remember that there is no such thing as managing time, for time is an “indefinite continued progress of existence” (my MacBook’s definition, not mine) that is inelastic. When change presents itself, deliberately or hastily, remember that you need not manage how you spend your time but rather how you manage yourself.
There is no such thing as time management, but there is self-management.
3. The amount of effort is no match for quality of effort.
Toggl founder Alari Aho says one of the most important things he’s learned is that the more effort you put in to a startup, the more you grow. The more love and care you give to your product and company, the more they will grow.
Of course, if you put in a lot of effort and end up with no tangible assets or value, you’re doing something wrong. In a startup, effort never equals results. You need to make sure that you’re doing things that matter before making a big commitment in time and effort.
You need to work hard to get results. Just like sports, if you’re talented and don’t work hard, you lose. The less talented guys who work hard will win. Hard work always pays off.
4. You’re no longer a subject matter expert.
When you enter a new company as a founder or new employee, you require a degree of subject matter expertise for a number of reasons: credibility, legitimacy, know-how. As you climb the ladder of success and move into managing people, a micro-level view of your own roles and responsibilities is no longer what your effectiveness is based on. Instead, managing others necessitates a more macro-level view of the environment, a wider aperture that focuses more on people, motivations and behaviors than the procedural details that once defined you.
Ultimately, you move into a position of leadership where you’re expected to move large pieces of the organizational puzzle around, think strategically, build alliances and see the competitive environment not just as it is, but how it will be. Subject matter expertise would be limiting in this capacity, yet relinquishing the invaluable knowledge that made you a better you isn’t easy. Expect it.
This list is not to dissuade you. Rather, think of it as a head start into your startup endeavor. The more you know, the sooner you can adapt -- and win.
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