Your first startup is exhilarating.
Whether it’s a side project you’re starting with friends while working a full-time job, or you’re one of those entrepreneurs that has decided to take the leap and go all-in on your idea, all startups experience many of the same fundamental challenges.
As a founder, co-founder, or team member, you’re going to have expectations; for the project, for those around you, and most importantly, what “success” looks like for you.
But as a founder myself, and someone who has been involved in a handful of different startup ventures (some amazing, some disappointing), here is my biggest piece of advice:
Try let all those expectations go.
In startup land, expectations can be a very harmful thing.
They get in the way of the process, and even more so, they create unnecessary tension within your team.
Because everyone has their own idea of how they want things to go-;and the nature of a startup is for things to never, ever, go as planned.
I’ve had some very high moments as an entrepreneur. I’ve also had moments where all I wanted was for the day to end so I could crawl into a ball and hide under the covers of my bed.
I know I’m not alone.
Here are 3 things you need to know before you embark on the twisted path of entrepreneurship and dive head-first into startup number one:
1. “It always takes twice as long, and costs twice as much.”
This is a quote from a mentor of mine, a serial entrepreneur.
He used to say this to me all the time, but I never fully understood what he meant until I founded my own company.
Since then, I’ve witnessed it everywhere.
Almost everything in life takes twice as long, and costs twice as much.
So before you go making promises and setting huge projections for you, your team, and that brand new company of yours, I encourage you to take a step back and multiply all your costs by two.
Trust me, it’s better to exceed your goals than under-deliver.
2. It’s not about knowing everything. It’s about knowing what you don’t know.
The other night, I was having dinner with a new friend; who just so happens to be a very very successful investor and advisor.
He turned to me and said, “Tell me again, what are your financials?”
I racked my brain and remembered general numbers. But as soon as I opened my mouth, I could tell I wasn’t doing them justice-;and making myself look dumb in the process.
So I stopped myself.
“I’ll be honest,” I said. “That’s a question for my co-founder. He handles the numbers, I handle the writing.”
This very successful investor smiled and said, “The fact that you know your lane, and stay your lane, tells me everything I need to know.”
Most entrepreneurs get caught up trying to prove themselves.
It’s not about knowing everything.
Knowing what you don’t know shows true intelligence.
3. There is no such thing as an overnight success, in any capacity.
I am an overnight success story that took 10 years to finish.
I can pinpoint the day I had my first startup idea really click. My co-founder and I went from 0 to 5 clients almost overnight, and we had many conversations where we sat there asking ourselves, “How did this happen so quickly?”
The truth is, it didn’t happen quickly. It took 10 years and a lot of trial and error in order to learn what worked and what didn’t.
It’s just a whole lot easier to see the moment of success, than to remember that one moment in context beside all the moments of failure.
If you want to build something on your own, if you want to get into the startup game, I really encourage you to remove any and all expectations you have of this first, second, forty-seventh idea of yours being successful.
Focusing on it “being a success” is a waste of time. It’s actually a distraction from the thing that actually matters, which is learning your industry and mastering your craft-;the thing that ultimately makes someone’s idea a success in the first place.
The less expectations, the better.
The less you look for that moment you’ve “made it,” the faster you’ll move.
Being the founder of something isn’t about calling yourself a founder.
It’s about building, and failing, and refining over and over again, until all of a sudden you’ve built something valuable, and you sit there saying to yourself, “Wow, that happened fast.”
Focus on the process, not the end result.