5 Ways to Stop Sacrificing Too Much for Your Startup
Twitter's CEO and co-founders have said that they won't sell stock when the lock-up ends on May 5. Why? It's not hard to guess. A sudden flood of shares hitting the market could send the stock price tumbling, and the company wants to keep a strong share value for possible acquisitions, adherence to lender demands, employee morale, and other reasons.
In short, Dick Costolo, Jack Dorsey, and Evan Williams are doing what entrepreneurs often do: sacrificing for the greater good. The fear of failure runs deep, and for good reasons. It's ridiculously easy for a new company to crash and burn. But there are useful efforts and those that are wastes of time and energy. What you want to do is to work smarter.
You can't avoid sacrifice in starting and expanding a company. However, you can be more intelligent about how you do it and avoid unnecessary privations that will actually set you back. Here are five ways to keep some balance and sanity.
Set regular hours (as much as possible).
Running a business, whether new or established, can mean long hours. But it shouldn't turn into a never-ending series of all-nighters. You'll burn out mentally and physically. Some significant time away helps you recharge, clear fuzzy thinking, and come back more able to succeed. Set regular hours for yourself. They'll probably be long, and there will be times when you can't leave when you're scheduled to. Set the hours anyway and do your best to keep them.
Trade off advancement with family and me-time.
One of the ideas that drive entrepreneurs to spend all their time at work is the thought that they are pushing their companies ahead. Often, that's wishful thinking. Track what an outsider would consider actual advancement, and you'll find that often you've indulged in wheel spinning. Maybe it's losing sight of a bigger picture or perhaps it's giving in to your inner workaholic.
In addition to setting regular hours, make sure that you do something during your time away from the job. Maybe hang out with a significant other, kids, or friends. Or you might occasionally indulge in a hobby, or even take a course. Meg Hirshberg, wife of Greg Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, says even "generally inquiring about [a] spouse's day" can help keep important family connections. You're not going for the big gesture so much as the little daily things that can help keep you and the people you care about sane.
Treat yourself like an employee.
Almost any entrepreneur will have stories about paying everyone else first or being the only one in the office on a holiday. You're the boss who stands to benefit most from establishing the company, so of course you're last on the list of anyone who gets a break.
But that attitude can be a mistake. For example, forgo salary long enough with insufficient savings and you'll be in no shape to get anything done. Think of yourself instead as an employee. This doesn't mean you get to slack off, but it will force you to consider some things you need when planning strategy, forecasting financials, and scheduling operations.
You don't always have to be the hero.
Many entrepreneurs want to be the one who comes to the rescue in a problem. Unfortunately, that's something to feed your ego, not expand the business. Many times you will have to be the one to put in the last effort or work on a particular project. Other times, not only could others take over, but they might even be better suited to whatever has to be done. Give employees, family members, or whoever can help out a chance to shine in the spotlight.
Remember that things change.
This may be one of the toughest tips to implement. As a business grows, it's easy to fall into habits over how it has to run and what you can and cannot allow yourself to do. In a couple of companies I've run, it took me some time to realize that I could actually take a week of vacation, or even two, without putting the business into peril. Next year there might be room for a slightly larger salary for you. Perhaps you can afford a key hire that could take pressure off you and help drive the company to greater success.
Creating a business always requires some sacrifice. Just be sure that the sacrifice you offer is one that is necessary and won't hurt your enterprise more than it can help.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.