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3 instinctive founder responses that lead to failure

It’s said that 90% of startups fail, but one thing’s for sure — it’s not because founders don’t work hard enough. If anything, quite the opposite.

The startup world is a male-dominated space where cultural expectations around what creates success dictate that founders should fit the lone wolf, tech bro archetype. 

Popularised by Mark Zuckerberg and, more recently, Sam Bankman-Fried, this is the type of founder that can be regularly found sleeping in their offices and working tirelessly, often at the expense of personal relationships and self-care, perpetuating the stereotype of ‘hustle culture’ as the only path to success.

One of the knock-on effects of this culture is that founders have developed three inbuilt responses to setbacks (or even success!):

  1. Do more

When things aren’t going well, it’s natural to believe that doing more will increase the chances of success. 

However, stretching yourself beyond your limits will have negative implications for both you and your team. If the founder becomes burnt out and emotionally drained, it can lead to poor decision-making, idea overload, and rushed execution.

  1. Go faster

The startup world is fast-paced and encourages founders to move at lightning speed, prioritising rapid growth at all costs. However, as the old saying “more haste, less speed” warns, this can contribute to burnout and jeopardise potential success. 

  1. Self-sacrifice

Prioritising work above self-care, rest, and personal relationships can have a detrimental effect on both your personal and professional life. 

Moving Beyond Hustle Culture

These responses can work in the short term: sometimes, they can be the right way to tackle a crisis or help the business survive critical moments in its evolution. Since they can lead to short-term gains, founders often associate these behaviours with success. 

However, despite what the narrative on LinkedIn might have you believe, success in business is a five-to-ten-year game, not a two-to-three-year one, and the strategies that might help your business survive in the short term are not sustainable in the long run. 

A Mindset Shift for Sustainable Success

(Source: Unsplash)

A simple mindset shift can help set founders up for long-term success. All you have to do is flip these three instinctive responses on their head, changing them to:

  • Do less. Achieve more.
  • Go slower. Get there faster.
  • Prioritise self. Greater impact.

So, what do they look like in practice?

Do Less. Achieve more.

In the journey towards long-term success, it’s essential to streamline your strategy, focusing not on the sheer volume of work but on achieving key objectives. 

It’s crucial to find a balance that integrates both work and life goals into the same timeframe. This approach requires you to lead yourself with the same level of guidance and direction you provide to your team. 

By doing so, you can create a sustainable path that supports both your personal well-being and your company’s growth.

Go slower. Get there faster.

This approach is all about reaching your intended destination efficiently — you’ll arrive faster if you avoid the pitfalls of blindly rushing into dead ends or heading in the wrong direction. 

Perfecting the rhythm of planning and execution is key. It’s crucial to connect your overarching strategy with the specific tasks you and your team concentrate on daily, weekly, and monthly. 

This alignment ensures that every step taken is a deliberate move towards your goals.

Prioritise self. Greater impact.

As the driving force behind your business, think of yourself as a corporate athlete — prioritising your well-being is job #1. 

When you show up with clear-mindedness and vitality, it not only enhances your decision-making but also positively influences your team and the entire business atmosphere. 

Preventing the cycle of burnout is essential, as it doesn’t just cause personal and professional setbacks but also affects the overall work environment.

Rewiring Your Responses

The journey to a sustainably successful startup demands a substantial shift in the traditional founder’s mindset, which can be a daunting task to undertake alone. 

However, enlisting the support of a founder coach can help you realign strategies, streamline plans, and ensure consistent progress checks. 

This recalibration is a 360-degree approach that encompasses not just your business but also your personal well-being and life outside of work.

This more balanced approach helps to prevent burnout and nurtures a healthier, more resilient entrepreneurial spirit. 

With the right guidance and support, you can steer your businesses towards success more effectively while ensuring your own personal growth and satisfaction. 

Ultimately, this will lead you and your team to a business that’s not just surviving, but thriving.

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