There are two times an entrepreneur feels paranoid.
The first is at the very beginning of the journey, during the early stages of building a company. From the moment you launch your business, you become paranoid: about getting customers, about making payroll, about building the right processes, etc. The paranoia and the fear of failure is what catapults you forward, demands that you give things your all, and ultimately makes you successful.
The other time an entrepreneur feels paranoid is when their business, which was doing so well, starts to fall apart. A new competitor comes enters the market, a company leader quits, a supplier raises their prices, a manufacturer goes out of business--the list of things that could potentially go wrong for a company is endless. All of a sudden, you as an entrepreneur will feel the exact same way you felt day one, trying to wrap your head around all of the potential variables and make quick decisions that lead to lasting results.
You become paranoid all over again.
After several decades of building businesses, I've come to learn that paranoia is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a mindset that often times brings about the best results. It's just unfortunate that most entrepreneurs are only paranoid about the future of their company when things aren't going well.
I advocate for the opposite:
1. Staying paranoid, even when things are going well, is critical for success.
If paranoia brings about such great results for companies, then why stop being paranoid?
I think one of the things that has allowed me to become a successful entrepreneur is the fact that I've never rested on my laurels. I live by the mantra, "If it ain't broken, fix it anyway."
Within my businesses, as well, I always encourage a culture where it's better to be (or forever see yourself as) the underdog--even if you're the market leader. Reason being, complacency is what kills companies.
2. Staying paranoid keeps things moving quickly.
Whether it's speed of answering the phone, the speed of getting back to a lead, or the speed of making a delivery, staying paranoid ensures you never lose your competitive edge.
At my current company, LendingOne, this is something I advocate heavily for when it comes to closing loans, fast. Our market is extremely saturated, and one of our points of differentiation is speed. So, as any athlete will tell you, the key to staying in first place is to run like someone is always on your heels.
Unless you invent a product that has no competition, speed to service is almost always a major differentiator. Paranoia helps ensure you act accordingly.
3. Staying paranoid creates a sense of urgency.
One of the things I discourage most, in any organization, is the mentality of things getting done "when they get done."
This doesn't do anyone any good.
When you are part of an organization, especially a startup, you are fighting for your job. Whether you're the founder or a brand new intern, every single day is an opportunity to prove to yourself, your team members, your customers and your clients that you are the right business for the job. And if you don't deliver on that promise, trust me, there are dozens of other options out there for your paying customer to consider.
Sense of urgency is crucial to the success of a company.
This is something I explain in further detail in my book, All In, but as the leader, it's on you to create this sense of urgency. If you don't, people will learn that things can get taken care of at their leisure--and when this happens, quality begins to suffer. Camaraderie suffers. Efficiency suffers. And before you know it, the culture and team and business you worked so hard to build will suddenly look very different.
In that moment, you'll realize your mistake, and become paranoid all over again.
So, why wait?
Stay paranoid, stay focused.