So it’s week one of my new life in Startupland (like Disneyland only MUCH more expensive and you can’t get off when you start to feel sick). And I can’t help but smile at the irony that it’s mental health week. Was I mental trading my well paid, highly respectable management consulting job in the city for a cash-strapped, home-office with no clients and no income?
Well, probably. But I’m ok with being a little bit mental. I think we all are.
Before I go on, I should qualify that statement in case one day someone other than my Mum actually reads this and takes offence at my use of the word ‘mental’ in this context. I am by no means trivialising the issue of mental health. On the contrary, I have personal experience of mental health issues and how debilitating they can be in all aspects of the sufferer’s life. So if, in the end, I prompt some discussion, thought or debate about this important and very real social issue then I figure that’s a good thing.
So here’s my “3 from 3″… three things I’m mindful of after three days of going it alone:
1. ‘What do you do?’ becomes a much harder question to answer
As a consultant and (let’s be honest) salesman, I’ve long appreciated the importance of a thoughtful and compelling ‘elevator pitch’ (what you’d say if you only had a few seconds with someone in an American lift…its even harder in an Australian lift because our buildings tend to have less floors). When the only current frame of reference though, is what’s in your head (because version 372 of the business plan you updated before you left the house this morning has already been superseded… 5 times!) you can find yourself struggling. The truth is I really don’t know ‘what’ I’m doing because I haven’t done it yet. So to save myself (and those around me) from going completely mental, I’m focussing on getting clear about ‘why’ I’m doing it first. I’m confident that if I get that right, the ‘what’ will become a lot easier to explain!
2. Talking to yourself does not count as an honest opinion (and nor does talking to the dog or the cat)
From the many corporate leaders, speakers and coaches I’ve worked with over the years, I’ve learned that an easy trap for anyone (never mind a startup founder) is believing their own BS (hopefully that acronym works without the *#! etc.) There is a difference between confident self-belief and arrogant naivety but sometimes even the most honest ‘hard look in the mirror’ still only tells you what you want to hear. So I’ve been out talking (and listening!) quite a bit this week. I’ve heard some things I wanted to hear and some things I needed to hear and importantly I haven’t heard anything that wasn’t helpful to me in some way. I’m definitely taking more than I’m giving at the moment but its amazing how willingly and gladly people give of their time if you ask them.
3. The value of time and money changes overnight – why I had to sack the gardener!
When you are earning a salary you can easily put a $ value on your time. This helps you to make decisions (sometimes sub-consciously) about the trade-offs in life. What you will spend your time on vs. what you will outsource or pay someone else to do. In Startupland, you suddenly find yourself making very different choices and decisions that used to be easy are no longer easy. I suspect these decisions are going to get a lot harder but considering I have only just started, I wasn’t expecting to be letting someone go in my first week as a new business owner! Luckily our gardener was very nice about it and understood that a man needs to cut his own grass once in a while!