As a co-founder or founding CEO of a startup, everything that goes wrong is your fault. This mindset is psychologically-painful but truly empowering at the same time.
Over the years as an entrepreneur, I have had other entrepreneurs share their problems and had a fair chunk of my own to deal with. Unfortunately, there is one trend that I still see after all these years.
Most of them simply complain and blame external things.
They complain about not having money. If they have that, they complain about not having a developer or a co-founder. Or they complain about their co-founders.
Better yet, if they have all of that, they complain about stagnant growth, team being slackers, and not having enough time……
Complaining is okay. We all do it.
What is NOT okay is the mentality that hides behind these complaints – i-e it is not my fault.
Who’s fault is it?
Having worked with 3 entrepreneurial ventures, 3 selling gigs, and 5 years of working with teams, it has dawned on me that;
It’s all your fault.
You have to own the problem otherwise you are essentially declaring yourself a slave to the externalities and running a “lucky” company. Once you own it, there is no complaining or blaming – only decisions.
The team member who is contaminating the culture? You choose to work with him.
The strategy that failed? You articulated or voted in confidence of it.
The “market” or “industry” is messed up? You chose to operate within it.
The company lost focus in tough times? You were leading the wolf-pack.
Leading or Co-Founding a Startup
If you are fortunate enough to be a co-founder or founding CEO, every single thing is your fault. Unlike politicians, presidents, or professional CEO’s who blame the last guy – you cannot do that.
This is because your start-up is like an ecosystem you created from ground up – people, mission, vision, culture, etc.
You created it.
The downside of this startup philosophy is that it is never ending and psychologically-crippling: to take on every problem and own it. It is already lonely for a startup CEO or a co-founder and this mindset further makes that loneliness unpleasant.
Learn to make it personal (i-e I am inexperienced with business validation ) without taking it personally (i-e I suck as an entrepreneur). And if you find yours complaining or blaming, you must take control (make decisions).
- Tl;dr – As a co-founder or founding CEO of a startup, everything that happens is all your fault. It is an extremely psychologically-painful experience but truly empowering at the same time.
- Psychology – Learn to make it personal (i-e I am inexperienced with business validation ) without taking it personally (i-e I suck as an entrepreneur). And if you find yourself complaining or blaming, you must take control (make decisions).
- Culture – Set the team culture to share the similar mentality otherwise only one will take responsibility while others stay quite.
- Entrepreneurship– As the company grows beyond the co-founders, maybe you can take on the a different philosophy but until your start-up is a family – this is the only one that has worked for me.
- Applicable Examples – Extreme Ownership for Navy Seals, Sun Tzu’s Art of War Strategies, & Leadership Principles of Taking the Blame