To develop a business from the ground up is a lot of leg work and long hours — but it doesn’t have to be a stress-inducing process. If you get the basics right from the beginning, you can confidently dismiss work-related stress in the long-run too.
If you’re considering quitting your full-time job to develop a startup or if you’re currently struggling in the process, take a few moments to read our advice. Let’s be honest, at the inception of your business — the odds are pretty much against you.
There are plenty of cons to getting involved in, heading or working for a startup, to say the least. It’s pretty much a given that you will see minus signs on your financial spreadsheets for the next couple of years and you certainly won’t take any dividends out of the newfound enterprise.
As well as being strapped for cash in your bank account, you’ll feel completely time-poor due to the exhaustingly long work hours. But with careful consideration and a clear mindset, you can avoid feeling all the usual strains of work-related stress and come out the other side with an established enterprise that is ready to hit the jackpot.
1. It needs to be realistic for you to relax
Finance is often a big dark shadow that looms over startup culture. You can start with a solid idea that you’re sure will attract floods of customers and work in your location. You might even have a five or ten-year plan of how you might scale up the enterprise when you can afford it. But a lack of funding and working capital can make that big dream come crashing down before your eyes.
If you’re ever going to relax in the start-up process, you need to be realistic from the get-go about what you can achieve and how much it’s going to cost you. Although an idea might sound great on paper, it’s got to be great in practice too.
As a general guide, you should start much smaller than your expectations. You probably think your startup business is going to be the next big thing — you need some unrealistic arrogance to pull it off and keep the creative juices flowing. Yet, whatever image you’re picturing in your head, turn it down a couple of notches before you write your business plan and project the estimated costs.
This is termed healthy scepticism by some business leaders. Although this might seem like a negative piece of advice, in reality, those who tell you that anything is possible are playing a dangerous game. Anything really is possible — when it’s realistic.
2. Carefully consider your company culture
A long-term stress reliever is building a positive company culture that works for you. This is by no means an easy task to embark on, but company culture exists whether or not you spend the time to create it consciously. Different processes shape your company culture including your behaviour, your hiring process and your ethos.
Remember, company culture is not a generic package either titled good company culture or bad company culture. It’s a unique DNA that makes up the fabric of your enterprise. You will need to dig deep to understand what you want your company’s culture to be and how you’re going to get there.
As many seasoned CEO’s recognise, maintaining your company culture only gets harder as your organisation grows. After all, the more people you hire, the more individuals contribute to your culture pie and make an impact on the recipe. However, if you have a strong culture from the beginning, it’s much easier to remain focused on this rather than trying to rework or define the accidental culture that is created further down the line.
3. Remember the Why not just the What
Nothing will feel truly overwhelming if it’s something you genuinely want to do. As cliche as it sounds, your heart needs to be in it. Starting a company for the right reasons makes a real difference in how you perceive your time spent at work. The number one worst reason for starting a business is for financial gain, as 75% of startups fail — as we’ve already discussed, most don’t see a return on investment in the first year or so of business. Ouch.
So if you’re sticking around to watch the numbers roll in, you’re in the wrong place. Developing a startup means a commitment to the long game. The company must also provide real value to customers (at least in your eyes). If you’re giving the mission an appropriate amount of energy and time, it will be an entrenched part of your life. When you spend a great deal of time on something that you don’t ethically agree with, it will undoubtedly become a huge burden.
4. Freedom means flexibility from the start
Any startup that is beginning now — and more so if this is a future plan — will need to consider flexible working as part of their core offering. Flexibility is a growing demand for the millennial worker who considers their social life and their morals to be of higher importance than their paycheck. We’re here to tell you that they’re not wrong. To dismiss work-related stress, make sure you’re taking a well-deserved break now and then (as most SME leaders are drowning in the daily grind).
Introducing flexible work arrangements for your staff will help them to stay put for longer, thus ultimately protecting your labour retention. Investing in a virtual phone number will enable you to offer remote work days to your workforce so they can work one day out of the office per week. This way people feel under less pressure and more in control of their career. The collective effect of this change will also impact your company culture. It creates a circular sequence of good vibes to dismiss work-related stress completely.
5. Find a mentor that can offer an outside perspective
Nobody is expecting you to be perfect, but if you’re feeling overworked and underpaid, your judgement probably isn’t at its best. It is overwhelmingly helpful to have a third party point of view in the form of a mentor who can cast a fresh pair of eyes on any situation and give reasonable, rational advice. Not to mention that your mentor will most likely be more experienced than you and will have the benefit of hindsight to stop you from making common mistakes.
If you’re thinking, how can I find a mentor? There are plenty of different ways. To cut all corners, you can hire a professional business coach who might mentor amateur entrepreneurs for their day job. Don’t like the thought of chatting through your insecurities with a stranger?
Connect with an old boss, teacher or colleague who you think has relevant experience to coach you. If all else fails, a mentor doesn’t have to be a physical being. Mentorship can take place almost anywhere, like when you read an insightful blog post or listen to a well-researched podcast.
We have a whole section of our blog dedicated to tips for those who are starting up — let this be your mentorship guide or commit to structured self-mentorship sessions, like booking tickets to a TED talk. However you choose to do it, self-reflection will give you a sense of calm that you can transfer to others in need.