Close your eyes for a moment and picture a typical founder. What is this person wearing? What are they doing?
If you're like most people, your image of an entrepreneur probably looks like the glamorous photos we see on LinkedIn: someone working on a laptop in a trendy café, sipping on a flat white while brainstorming brilliant ideas.
The reality of being a founder is far from this rose-tinted view. As the CEO of a startup, I spend roughly 1% of my time brainstorming — most of the time, I'm buried under a mountain of mundane and thankless tasks.
This is literally the worst job I’ve ever had.
The day-to-day sucks
Think about all the small, simple jobs that no one else wants to do — those tasks are the majority of a founder’s day-to-day work. It's not all glitz and glamour and freshly roasted beans; it's getting your hands dirty and doing the grunt work.
The pay is rubbish
On top of that, it’s the worst-paid job I’ve ever had. Yes, you heard that right. The work and pay of a typical founder aren’t as attractive as the world may lead you to believe. Most founders earn less than their own employees. And yes, there’s the potential for a successful exit eventually — if their company beats the odds and survives.
It’s a high-stakes game
Founders must make tough decisions, often extremely quickly and with very little information, that impact themselves, their team members and their families. Launch in a new market? Kill a product? Lay off employees? Give someone a raise?
That means carrying the burden of success and failure on a daily basis, which can be overwhelming and isolating. Startup employees can go to their managers or to the founder for support — who does the founder have to go to?
While the outside world sees a successful founder giving inspirational pitches, the reality is sleepless nights and stress headaches. Our lives are plagued by worry, whether it be about finances, payouts or simply keeping our ship afloat. We neglect our health and our families; more founders than you’d like to think resort to sleeping pills or alcohol to relieve their stress and worry. This high-stakes game takes a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Everyone sees the successful founder
I’ve started being more vocal about just how difficult a founder’s job is after I started actively posting on LinkedIn about my company’s success. People couldn’t stop hitting the like button; everywhere I went, I was praised for what I had built.
But I knew that my posts only reflected one side of the journey. Anyone familiar with the startup life knows it’s not all rainbows and hot coffee. It’s facing failure daily and learning to pick yourself up again.
It got me thinking: why aren’t founders more open and honest about the realities of the job? We should work to change the narrative around being the leader of a new venture so founders, investors and employees can better support one another on this wild entrepreneurial adventure.
Do the next generation a favour
Why? Think about the new generation of founders. If we only show them the glory of entrepreneurship, they’ll crumble under the reality of the startup environment. They and their companies will be crippled by their own disillusionment. Instead of understanding that the obstacles are a part of the startup rollercoaster, they’ll be quickly thrown off.
The reality is that being a founder sometimes involves lonely nights answering the email backlog. Sometimes what seems like the worst job, can be the job you live and breathe for. It can be the job, that in spite of all those struggles, is the most rewarding. At least that’s how I feel.