Founders fail before businesses do

Would you put 60 hours a week into starting your own business, only to watch it fail? 

Over 50% of founders are working 50+ hours a week, yet 90% will see their startups fail. It’s clear the reason isn’t their failure to work hard enough.

Clickbait headlines like: “How this 20-year old launched a seven-figure business in only 6 weeks,” creates a false narrative around what’s probable, luring founders to succumb to the siren song of hustle culture. 

This constant push to move faster and expect exponential growth is accelerating both burnout and business failure.

It’s sobering to think that you could be the cause of your company’s failure, but that’s the reality facing founders who are willing to view their situation honestly. 

Fortune magazine found that 30% of startups fail due to the emotional state of their founders – and it’s not hard to see why. Chronic stress stemming from the belief that failure is not an option sees many leaders flailing against the demands they’ve placed upon themselves. 

Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global said: “The prevalent view of startup founders in Silicon Valley is a delusion that in order to succeed and build a high-growth company, you need to burn out.” As she affirmed, this is a delusion – a belief that’s both unfounded by data and contributing to failure.

Amidst all this chaos is a simple and relatable goal – the desire to succeed. Getting there faster should be a priority for all business leaders, but that’s not the same as going faster. 

Going faster means moving before taking stock. It looks like working excessive hours, placing unrealistic expectations on yourself, trying to do everything by tomorrow. This is a recipe for burnout and it’s contributing to a bigger crisis. Mental health problems have been reported by 72% of entrepreneurs, compared to only 7% of the general public.

Paradoxically, getting there faster means pausing and being willing to slow down. Taking the time to recognise the goals and milestones that will steer your path to success. It means asking yourself what you’re working for and why.

This constant refinement is what will elevate your journey to heights that failing founders never see. As your vision is made clear, you can approach your goals in a mindful and strategic way, instead of treading that well-worn path of the busy fool. This is the journey of the future fit founder.

Align your vision

Those early ideas of how career success looks often reflects what we’ve seen in the media. A corner office, always busy, overseeing a big team. And yet, the longer you spend in actual leadership positions, the more that vision of success starts to change. That is, if you’re looking up from your desk for long enough to notice. 

While most could fluently say what success isn’t, can you say with the same confidence that you’ve taken the time to define what success is to you now?

Everyone has things they want to achieve that go beyond the scope of work; fitness goals, personal development goals, material goals, family goals. How you’re showing up for yourself is always going to impact you and your sphere of influence at work, so it’s important to regularly take time and space to assess how things are going. 

The good news is, you don’t need to put the things you want on the perpetual back burner while you achieve your goals at work. You can have it all. 

And here’s the kicker. When you can effectively align your vision between personal and work goals, so that neither has to come at the expense of the other, you become more likely to achieve business success.

You may have been too busy to even think about your personal vision. To do so means taking time to understand what it is you want, without outside pressures swaying your decisions. Once you’ve clearly defined this, effective action can follow.

Time spent by yourself gives you the opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings. Talking with a friend or peer can provide you with a fresh perspective and supportive ear. Working with a coach will help to flesh out your vision and move you seamlessly into your new reality.

Reconnect with community

You’ve heard it time and time again, humans are a social species. We need each other. But as a busy founder, auditing your social circle might sound like the most eye-rolling concern I could add to your ever-growing list of demands.

They say it’s lonely at the top, and for good reason. Colleagues and friends alike may struggle to relate to your experiences. And at work, if you’re surrounded by people who won’t challenge you, your most important decisions may lack honest and authentic discussion.

It’s not realistic (or classy) to try and overhaul your friends and colleagues in one foul swoop. It’s also not necessary. There are ways to find peers who can both understand you and educate you, and who will seek your guidance and support in return.

Surrounding yourself with other founders is the fastest way to find your tribe. Ideas flow when like-minded people facing similar challenges come together from different places. The act of simply being understood can help you avoid the social and professional pitfalls of isolation, whilst a safe space to vent is good for anyone’s mental health.

If you’re wondering how to meet those other founders, I know a place.

Hello from the other side

I’ve lived and breathed the work I outline here. I consider the flailing founder phase to be the cocoon that gave way to my future fit butterfly.

As I grew a global family business, I put my career goals ahead of everything. My wife would say, in a half-joking way, that if I had to choose between her and the business – I’d choose the business. The grain of truth in that still stings. I’m lucky enough to still be married, and she’s where she should have been all along, at the centre of my world.

I was always on. Always busy. My career stress even contributed to our struggles in having a baby. This was the wake up call that pushed me to finally make different choices.

Now I help other founders find a clear path to succeeding in business and prioritising themselves. Because putting yourself last isn’t a sustainable path to business success. As you may remember, founders fail before businesses do. 

Life success is business success. I became the best version of myself in business when I learned how to stop sacrificing everything else. 

Are you a future fit founder?

Running a business takes passion, determination, and hard work. 

Being a future fit founder means you’ll still be passionate, determined, and hard working – but with a new dimension added to your vision. You’ll stop swimming for long enough to see where you’re going. You’ll stop making your personal life your lowest priority. You’ll gain new allies who can help you out along the way.

Or maybe you’re already there? Take our 3-minute quiz to find out.