Mike was the founder of Shape History which reached up to 45 people prior to his exit. He’s just released his book Founder Therapy, a detailed account of his experience as a founder, and how he has come to help others. 

And today, Mike takes us back to a tough day in 2019. 

He remembers having particularly challenging conversations. It was the day that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

Driving back late from the station, Mike felt the pressure of being in control while growing his agency… and decided he didn’t want to be in control anymore. 

He let go of the steering wheel and watched the car drift to the central reservation. Grabbed hold of it again, pulled over, and sat in tears. 

Mike loved the work he was doing and where the business was going. But he needed help on the mental well-being side of things. And this was his signal to get it. 

The Effects of Mental Health and Business

Mike boils the pressure he was feeling down to 3 things.

Social responsibility, fear, and business attachment. 

Mike had led businesses of various sizes before, and had never been able to get away from the idea that he was responsible for his employee’s livelihood. 

In the case of Shape History, they were a social impact agency. So the people that they were helping were reliant on him too. 

The pressure he felt meant dedicating every waking hour to business. He was consistently worrying about money, cash flow and where the next client was. 

He felt drenched in anxiety when the reality was, he was more prepared, and had more money than the average startup at this stage because he was scared of running out. 

The third thing that impacted Mike the most was the natural attachment that he had formed to his business. He was his business, and took all criticisms as a personal attack. 

He calls these issues Profitable Poisons — fears and anxieties that aren’t good traits… but make the business a success. 

For Mike, he feels that this is rooted in his upbringing when financial security never equated to happiness, but survival. So he had always been hyper-vigilant. 

How do you address attachments to your business?

After Mike’s incident, he had to speak to his team.

He was, first and foremost, very honest with his senior team about what had happened. He took a 2-week holiday for the first time since founding the business. And he sought out therapy. 

The holiday forced him to let the team run the business. And forced him to realise that they could.

Throughout the process, he was met with compassion. Which led to a big change in the business dynamic, that led to his eventual exit in the years that followed. 

Mike thought that he needed to maintain a strong facade, as that is what he had experienced in life and in business. But when he was honest and vulnerable with his team — things changed for the better. 

In this episode, Mike shares what he describes as a “self-discovery part 2” post-exit and how he got there. 

We talk in-depth about, 

  • Childhood experiences that led to his initial beliefs
  • Trends around early retirements and what they lead to
  • The 80-20 of your talents and passions when in business

Mike is incredibly honest about how this 1 incident changed his trajectory, tune in to hear how this honesty has helped him in his journey.