A Start-Up isn’t “your baby”, it is “a baby”

written by AIleen Biagi

Start-Ups are demanding, hungry, messy, expensive, unreasonable and ungrateful. They put you in embarrassing situations and they don’t respect boundaries. Everything they do that’s wrong is your fault, while they take all the glory, “isn’t she/he so clever/healthy/strong/funny/beautiful while you sit there exhausted and unshowered.

When you have a Start-Up there is no turning back, you go all in or not at all. 18 hours days, huge debts, little sleep, constant doubt in your abilities etc is just the way it is. You can’t give them back – ok, technically there are ways but you’d be horrified if anyone suggested it right?

So what are you going to do, continually make up excuses for why you’re not doing the stuff you know is important, what the company demands, what it is screaming for?

Get help. Build a team around you. Who are the Start-Up versions of partner/best friend/parent/health visitor/doctor/mother groups/mumsnet?

You could take what help is close by or you could do better and start with the structure that’s proven in business – CEO/CFO/CMO/CTO/CCO/COO. You have to be the CEO but what else, what are you good at? As inventor you are the natural Chief Technical Officer? As creator and inspirational presenter you are the CMO? Or have you spotted an opportunity in the long tail of an industry like Jeff Bezos and you’re the CFO?

Now admit what you’re bad at and find expertise to plug the gaps; if you struggle with numbers, you need a CFO, inspiring but chaotic, you need a COO. Nobody does everything well but as the CEO you have to recognise that and build your team to complete the picture – and give your baby the best chance to thrive.

If you’re not ready to hire people or want to share equity then look for mentoring but do it before you think you need it. STAC is a mentoring programme, a non-profit that takes no equity and no fees so there’s little to lose. I waited too long to ask for help, when our company was failing and I was firefighting. So early on, when you don’t know what you don’t know, answer that question about what C suite role you will play and the ones you can’t, then find a mentor asap.

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