I used to say, the best things that can happen to a man is fall in love with a right girl and start your first company. I still think that’s true in that both are exciting and fulfilling at the beginning and usually end up with excruciating pains and out of control. For a lot of us entrepreneurs, we might not be lucky enough to build the next Facebook or WeChat, but should be able to live a fulfilling life, if we can do the right thing in the right way.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Such a cliché. But it’s true in that a successful startup might take a while, say 5 to 10 years, to materialize. And it’s not the only thing you do in your life, so don’t forget your family and friends, and health. Realizing this can at least put yourself in right perspective and right mindset. I got carried away, thinking I was busy with big things (干大事) and my family and friends can wait. As result, I missed one of my best friends’ wedding ceremony, forgot my international flight, and even forgot my mother’s train schedule and stood her up for a couple of hours. The reality is, you might be able to change the world in the long run, but you cannot change your family and friends in a short while.
To-do list is growing longer every day, don’t forget to re-prioritize. Focus, but be flexible. We all understand startup is all about “Just do it” and “getting things done”, and we have a to-do list for everything. We founders are usually strong man/woman and we can do it all. Thus we are busy with crossing items off the to-do list. However, we have to understand it is the priority that sets your agenda on daily basis. Is it important, or urgent, or important but not urgent, or urgent but not important? How about freeing yourself up and let others help you? Remember, The reason why a company is called a company is because it takes a lot of people working together to succeed. Be wise to utilize it.
Headaches, or even crisis, are temporary, don’t let them break you up. Don’t push yourself too hard when time gets tough. Shit happens all the time, you hired a wrong people, your best guy is leaving, your big customer cuts you off, your partner is bickering, your competitor started an online rumor defacing you, and your product is falling off the cliff. As a startup, you don’t get many chances to screw up. But on the other hand, every problem has a solution. Try focus on alternative and dig yourself out. Find the right startup community, stop being be the lone wolf and start sharing with other founders, who are all experiencing the similar growing pains.
It’s a business, don’t forget your exit strategy. Who don’t love his company? It’s his baby anyway. But be realistic. At the end of day, it’s just a business. For most of us, selling your company is one of best ways getting out. I had a couple of opportunities to sell my first company but held it for too long, and I regret it even today. You know what I’ll say next, had I sold it, I would not have a chance to know you today. So when opportunity rose to sell my second company, I did not even blink my eye, even for such a small deal.
Day of Think, and try to distance yourself from your startup once a month. As founder, we are always busy, super busy, and sometimes too busy to think. As a wise man suggests, let’s put aside one day every month, and do nothing but think. Re-prioritize, re-focus, re-fill, re-fresh, and adjust. Get out of your routine and do something different. Go socialize and ideas live in people’s head anyway. Try stay offline from time to time.