Playing Offense: A Mental Model for Founders

6:24am: You wake up to a client’s slack message: “We need to talk”
You: Sh*t ?

8:45am: Forbes wants you to guest post.
You: Alight! ?

10:17am: Your rockstar analyst walks into your office and starts crying.
You: Wait, do I have tissues? ?

Noon: A notable VC emails about doing a webinar.
You: Yes! ?

1:00pm: Your new Sales Director drops the ball (again) on a big prospect. You: WTF. ?

3:10: Your junior designer’s mockups aren’t horrible.
You: Helleluha. ??

6:38: You check Quickbooks and see $45k in outstanding invoices from clients.
You: Breath slowly. ?

8:52pm: Your wife asks: “So how was your day?”
You: . . . ?

How do you even begin to answer this question?

Do you go positive? Negative? Both?

More importantly, how do you control your state of mind? Especially on those days when the sky is falling.

I have had two near-death experiences with my company.

  • 2017: A client walked out on $40k of outstanding invoices (after we did all the work)
  • 2019: A key leader was forced to leave because of health reasons . . . after we closed our biggest account he was to manage.

But, in those times it’s important to control your focus and your energy.

PLAYING OFFENSE: a Mental Model for Founders

So what to do on those days when the sky is falling as a founder?

When times get tough I change my mindset to be proactive rather than reactive. While bad things happen to you, you still control your actions and your perspective.

I start playing offense.

The Answer vs. The GOAT

I list out all the momentum we have at the company. Then I identify the positive things I can control. Examples include:

“We have 5 contracts out to leads worth over $50k.”
Action: Send email follow-ups.

“We have 6 speaking gigs lined up in Q2.”
Action: Schedule social promotions for the talks.

“We’ve doubled growth and haven’t even started marketing yet.”
Action: Create SOPs for how to run your content distribution strategy.

“Three clients just told us how happy they were to be working with us.”
Action: Ask them for testimonials.

This simple exercise immediately changes my mindset from thinking “oh no, this is so hard.” to “Damn we’re so close to taking off.” It also removes me from the day to day and puts me in a strategic mindset.

It doesn’t guarantee things will get better but it shifts my focus to being proactive rather than reactive. And to focus on the high impact items that can help us grow.

I constantly see people quit on their companies too early. Sometimes it’s justified but other times it’s because they focused on the negative that comes with the chaos of running a business. The truth is they were a few steps away from turning the corner and really growing.

So the next time you get beat up as a business owner or you’re facing a near-death experience. Ask yourself how you can play offense.

It might be the mindset shift you need to get to the next level.

GrowthHit CEO. TechStars Mentor. ANA Speaker. Instructor at General Assembly. Clueless dad. Aspiring NBA Player.