Eight years ago, I made the transition from mom to entrepreneur and began my journey as the female founder of APPCityLife. It has been one of the most difficult and the most rewarding experiences I've had, and I couldn't have made it through the past eight years without a lot of support. Here are a few of the insights I've also learned along the way.
It is really easy to become a CEO, so don't lean on the title for validation. All it actually takes to become a CEO is to launch a startup and give yourself the title. But the title doesn't make you a CEO. It is the hard work of making difficult decisions while growing your company that helps you become a true CEO. It is not the title that makes you qualified to run your business; it is the commitment, vision, and hard work that you put into it.
Push your team beyond their comfort zone because you know they are capable of more, not because you are afraid of failing. Your fear of the edge is not justification to push your team to the breaking point. It will not get you where you want to be, and you will lose precious momentum when commitment becomes resentment.
If the people who are working with you believe that together you can achieve the impossible, don't ever trifle with that kind of loyalty. Most of the time, startup employees sacrifice higher pay and better hours elsewhere. Don't undervalue their willingness to help you bring your vision to fruition, and make sure they know you're grateful - even if you can't yet reward them as much as they may deserve.
Your bad behavior is not excused because of your position or just because you are uniquely talented. Also, bad behavior is not justified because you're the second person in an argument to begin behaving badly. Recognize what triggers your anger or defenses, and learn to walk away until you can respond appropriately. Don't ignore dangerous dynamics among your team; most personality conflicts or behavior problems will not go away on their own, and, left unaddressed, can sink your entire company. Your job as CEO is to model appropriate behavior for the rest of your team; your title does not give you license to behave worse than everyone else.
It is impossible to be simultaneously immersed in fear and gratitude. Reminding yourself of all you have to be grateful for is one of the most effective ways of keeping your fear in check. Fear does not mean you are making mistakes; it is part of what you signed up for as a founder of a startup. You will not have all the answers, and you will never have enough time to make completely informed decisions. You still have to make decisions, so learning how to manage your fear is vital to your success.
Hubris is the most dangerous attitudes you can embrace as the founder of a startup. It is unearned confidence, and because it is not backed by experience or wisdom, the decisions you make out of hubris will not only hurt you, they can sink your company. Disagreeing with advice is not hubris. Trusting your instincts is not hubris. But if you find that you are not open to criticism or undermine anyone who disagrees with you - that is hubris, and it will ruin your relationships and your ability to lead.
Don't wait for "success" to celebrate your wins. While it is important to keep focused on the big goals and to keep up your momentum as a team, it is also important to celebrate the wins along the way. Set aside a few minutes in your staff meetings to celebrate even small wins and encourage your team to brag up their own achievements. It will feel awkward at first, but if your only communication with each other is about solving problems, your culture will devolve into negativity - and that won't help any of you