Stress is caused by uncontrollability, unpredictability and novelty and when you are starting a new business you pretty much have all 3 from day 1. You cannot control whether you will get funding or predict with 100% accuracy that your idea will prove to be successful. The word stress is a bit too vague to be useful when understanding what is actually happening to us when we are stressed. When we experience stress we experience emotions and it’s these emotions that hold the answers to your problems. The most useful emotions will be the ones that you don’t want to experience, but if you don’t experience them and know how to respond to them, then your startup is doomed to failure.
Fear. This is one of the most powerful and useful emotions. If you see a car coming towards you at high speed then your body mind sends you fear to protect you. You will quickly move so as not to be hit. If you have fear of not getting the funding, finding the right staff, the most suitable location to work from, managing the development of the product or service, this is your body mind telling you need to do something. This could be getting some advice or support on a specific problem or finding out more about your investors before you pitch your idea. The more prepared you are the less fear/stress you will experience. Fear will go away once you have taken action.
Frustration. I love this emotion because before I understood it I caused myself endless problems. If you have ever had to get something from a drawer in your desk and the drawer became stuck you probably experienced frustration. The frustration probably increased the harder you pulled. Frustration is your body mind telling you to try something else. When you try something else, such as taking out the drawer above that one, then the frustration will subside and disappear when you find a solution. In a start up there will be many frustrating problems to deal with. Relax and realize that the frustration is telling you to try something else.
Anger. Most frequently labeled as a negative emotion. But an emotion is just an emotion and it is action that leads to positive or negative consequences. Anger is telling you that something is not right, something is unfair and it is telling you to do something about it. Taking positive and solution oriented action is what ‘anger’ wants you to do. So if you are angry about something someone has done, your body mind is telling you to do something constructive about it. That might be explaining why you are upset and what you want the person to do now to fix the problem or what to do next time. Every emotion will be useful to you in someway and if you understand the idea that they are there to help, guide and support you, if you take action then your stress levels will be lower and your chances of success will be greater.
How to have greater control and more predictability
A good friend of mine Dr John Eaton said that the only problem with control freaks is when you take away the control you are just left with a freak. A startup has many things that you need to have control over – such as finances, product quality, service, marketing etc. If you are the owner/partner there will be a tendency to want to control everything. The best solution to having greater control is to hire the right people that you can trust to do the work properly. The better you are at hiring the more control you will have and this is best illustrated in a quote by Red Scott “Hire right or manage tough and no one can ever manage tough enough” If you know how well your best people are going to perform the future of your business also becomes more predictable. In a recent interview Simon Squibb , CEO of Nest a Hong Kong accelerator said that when he is looking at funding a startup “the person is more important than the idea”. If you have ever had a stressful day you can be sure that it involved people. If you cannot hire the right people you will be constantly stressed out – fear, frustration, anger will be coming at you to fix the problems and then it will be a case of you doing the work that you hired people to do or constantly chasing them to do it properly.
To hire right you need to have a proven hiring system. In my next post I will focus on why hiring for a startup is different and exactly what you need to do to hire with accuracy in the 90% range.