One of the worst parts of being a founder is that the job is 24/7/365. There is no punching out and going home when you start a business from scratch. Sure, there is down time and slow periods, but you need to be ready to be on call at all moments if you are going to get into entrepreneurship. As the founder, no one else is ever going to care about your company as much as you do. When something goes wrong, you need to be willing to drop everything to fix it. When a big opportunity for a new customer or business partner or investor appears, you have to jump on it and make sure things are done right. This comes with the job as a founder.
When I was a manager at big banks, I ran large global teams. In my role at Bank of America I was based in London and had employees in a dozen countries from the US to Europe to Asia. I used to joke that the sun never set on the British Empire or my global business. I got occasional panicked phone calls late in my evening from my US subordinates and early in my morning from my Asian ones. It stunk, but I was part of a larger organization. I could check out and leave it to my boss or a local leader to handle in the correct time zone. And when it really came down to it, I wasn’t in charge of Bank of America, just my little part of it. The company wasn’t going to succeed to fail based on my division’s performance. I worked hard, but certainly not 24/7/365.
When I moved into entrepreneurship, I got a rude awakening. Now I was the principal shareholder and the buck stopped with me on every decision. I had employees and even some managers working for me, but I felt the weight of those calls on my shoulders much harder. I don’t think I was truly prepared for this. When something went wrong, I felt I needed to drop everything in my personal life and get on a solution. I think maybe if the businesses had reached a bigger scale, I would have started to move in a healthier direction, but I exited both startups before that point.
As you start your own entrepreneurship journey, please think about how this will impact you. Are you in a stable personal life situation where you can drop everything on a phone call if needed? I was fortunate to be in this situation, but it took a toll on me personally. If not, are you able to build a team of Co-Founders in the early days without money to hire a star staff so that you feel backed up? I wasn’t able to get partners into my businesses that had this type of 24/7/365 dedication. Looking back, this should have been a red flag that either the business ideas were not great, or I wasn’t really ready to be a startup leader. Either way, make sure you have a plan when you start your business to have things 100% covered in the early days.