Founders Have It Easy

Let’s stop indulging the admiration we never needed.

I’ve had my own company now for almost two years. We aren’t a unicorn, but it’s paid my rent, afforded me new puzzles to solve, and allowed me to hire friends new and old.

Most days, it seems unreal.

Yes, I took a pay cut. I could have made more working for someone else. But let’s be honest, people who start companies are rarely motivated by money. We’re an intolerant bunch of square pegs who aren’t good at taking orders or respecting the status quo handed down to us.

We get exactly what we want just by starting an LLC and cashing our first check. We fire our own starter pistol and we run ourselves, tirelessly. Freedom drives us. The exponential learning curve keeps us engaged. Money is just proof we were right.

The people who join our race with us are the truly miraculous ones. They possess a belief in us that we rarely deserve.

They work far past their breaking point and then they get up the next day to do it all over again.

They do any job that needs doing, each lacking the glamor we enjoy in our own founder spotlight. If we take out the garbage, it’s refreshing. If they do it, it’s just sanitation.

And to be fair, if we took a pay cut, collectively they took a pay stabbing.

We get asked to join exclusive clubs. They share war wounds with their friends over half-off happy hour.

We get requests to speak at conferences. They request time off (even if they don’t have to ask) to attend a conference to actually learn a new skill to support the business.

They make allowances for our ego, our eccentricities, our indulgent view of reality itself. We make long-off promises of empires and trophies.

Personally, I think it’s time for the spotlight to eschew founders. We have everything we want, already.

Founders are flat. We are one-dimensional obsessives. It’s the next employees that are complex characters, deserving of further inspection and admiration. They saw something beyond their own ego. They made a bet bigger than their own self adulation.

Don’t tell me about Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or some other white dude on the autism spectrum for that matter. Tell me about the first three-to-five people crazy enough to risk their economic and mental safety by joining them. Tell their story.

Fine, here, I’ll start.

Megan Foy runs just about everything at NOBL. She was the first lunatic to join our fringe. She has zero classical training, but she can be an expert in something in less time than it takes you to get a coffee from down the street. She holds herself to an absurd standard (sometimes I wish she didn’t) and has become the warm public face of the company to talent eager to support our mission. Most of all, she has a capacity for compassion that I have never seen sustained in another person beyond a fleeting social nicety.

Bree Groff actually knows what she’s doing. She has a Masters in Organizational Change and toiled away as a teacher trying to change the system (Sisyphus was less Sisyphus than she was). She has so far destroyed every cliche of a successful sales person because she actually takes the time to listen to new clients and connect with their organizational challenges. I think she’s going to find so many things wrong with me and how I approach the business, and it will likely be the only thing that ensures our survival.

Paula Cizek is a nightmare. She is the most well-read, well-researched, well-informed, and immediately confrontational person on the planet. You will never get away with a half-truth or even overly optimistic opinion around her. She will hunt you down and cut you in half with her cold logic. It is amazing and she has become like another sister to me (but she is a robot and has no feelings to comprehend this relationship). One of us may actually kill the other, but they surely had it coming.

Each of these women may at some point leave the business. But the business will always remain imbued with their contribution. I’m the founder but they continue to make the business whole. Until they joined, it was a personal delusion; a flight of fancy. I can’t always convey this as articulately as I wish I could, but my lack of words doesn’t make it any less true.

Most days are hard, some days are brutal. I’m here for that experience, they are here to see that the organization grows far beyond that.

And damn, that’s a better story.

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