Starting a business has always been hard on founders' mental health, but it's only recently that entrepreneurs are becoming more open about this fact. Award-winning writing from my Inc.com colleague Jessica Bruder helped lift the lid on founders' psychological suffering, while a string of prominent entrepreneurs and investors bravely shared accounts of their mental health struggles.
Now, in a hopeful further step, on the blog of therapy company Kip a few are sharing their stories of seeking help for these challenges in therapy, including how counseling helped not just them, but their businesses as well.
A better business and a calmer mind
Anand Kulkarni, CEO of startup Crowdbotics, and Justin Kan, founder and CEO of Atrium, were stressed out for different reasons. Kulkarni's business was growing rapidly. Kan sensed his wasn't headed in the right direction. But despite their different challenges, both opted for the same solution -- therapy.
"The kind of problems you face when you're running a business aren't always things you can productively unburden on your co-founders when they may be having the exact same problems. Your employees are looking to you as a leader to solve their problems, so you don't always want to share the company's problems with them. At some point, your friends and significant others get tired of listening to the same problems over and over again," he remembers. "One of the effects that I felt right away was being unburdened by just having someone to tell the things that were concerning me,"
But there were other more concrete benefits too. Kan explains that learning to be more mindful about his guilt helped him delegate more. "Before going to therapy, my instinct was to do everything myself. When I run my businesses today, I make sure to partner with people who are better than me at all of the things that I don't like doing," he says.
Kulkarni experienced nuts-and-bolts business benefits too. "In therapy I learned that when you're working in a small group and one person is escalating things, any anger or emotion generated can bounce back and forth rapidly and amplify out of control as two people get increasingly worked up about what the other person is saying," he offers as an example. Therapy taught him skills to deescalate such situations, which he says, "came in handy again and again at work."
Therapy as a benefit?
Both founders now recommend therapy to other stressed-out business leaders. "Too many founders wait for a 'crisis' before they start the process of therapy and I think that's the wrong approach. It's like waiting for a heart attack before you check your blood pressure," says Kulkarni.
Kan goes a step further. He suggests companies should consider offering therapy as an employee benefit. "I think it's probably a good perk for a company to provide. It's something to think about systemically--whether to offer it to your executives or everyone at your company--but I think you'd see more happy employees who understand themselves better and better relate to others," he says.
Whether your company pays for therapy or not, the experience of these founders suggests more entrepreneurs should consider seeking professional help for their stresses and worries.
Have you been to therapy to deal with the challenges of building your business? Was it a helpful experience?