In the middle of a morning run, a friend recently asked me the dreaded question: What do you do every day? (Or, more pointedly, she asked: What's on today's to-do list?) After a quick hesitation, I started to spill--and 45 minutes later, we had covered a loop of Central Park and I had still not shut up.
On any given day, my roles include: customer service representative, marketing manager, VP of business development, sales associate, director of operations, chief technologist, human resources generalist, copywriter, and intern. The list could go on, but I think you understand my point: In any early-stage start-up, "CEO" does not mean chief executive officer, but rather "chief everything officer."
So, once you understand and accept the craziness, here are my three survival tips to help you embrace your role and come out sane on the other side.
One of the things I often say is, "If this was supposed to be easy, it would have been done before." This is usually followed by, "when it rains, it pours." Accept the craziness—and, the minute you start to doubt it, remember the days in corporate America when you did one job, one role, 8 hours a day, 235 days a year.
A start-up is a lot like building a house. There are things that must get done (the foundation, the roof, etc.) and things you want to do (that new closet, super cool built-in).
Outlining your long-term strategy or planning that exciting partnership to kick off the summer will have to take a back seat when you have technology issues or unhappy customers. (You need walls for support, right?) Planning that cool event can wait until tomorrow—prioritize what is key today.
As we all know, I am a big believer in the "to-do" list. I also keep a "have done" list, however. It is important not only to focus on what needs to be done, but to reflect and relish your accomplishments—both big and small. (On my personal "have done" list: Successfully launched a bi-coastal platform with almost 200 partners in nine months—that's the big one—and getting a handwritten note from a customer who lost 60 pounds thanks to FITiST: small, but equally important).
Hopefully, these tricks will not only keep you from having a nervous breakdown, but also set you on the path to success. The end goal: The business succeeds, people take notice, you raise capital ... and you can hire people to cover all of the rest of your jobs.