Building a company is great. But nobody said it was going to be easy. Photo by Mukuko Studio on Unsplash

Dear Startup Founder — A Letter For You

Manuel Hartmann
Nov 4, 2019 · 2 min read

A very successful Swiss founder mentioned that entrepreneurs are 2x more likely to suffer from depression and 11x to do so from schizophrenia. We need to talk about this part of startup besides all the “limelight news” of successful funding rounds and exits of VC-backed startups. But at least in Switzerland, it seems we are not there yet. Which is why I thought I write you a short letter here:

Dear Startup founder

You juggle product development, sales, fundraising, hiring, but also family and personal life.

You work 12 hours per day, constantly trying to do all the right things and tinkering how to optimise how you do things. You try to read, exercise, have a beer with friends, and get 6 hours of sleep. And often fail.

You are scared your business might not work. Because the numbers do not live up to your business plan. Opportunity is vanity, revenue is sanity, and cash is the reality. And the reality looks less great than expected. You try to hold it all together and be constantly positive towards your employees, customers, partners, investors and friends. But on the inside, you often feel frustrated, anxious, and depressed.

Because you ask yourself the hard questions. Such as how you can attract top talent without being able to pay them the salaries and benefits they could get at Google, Salesforce and McKinsey. And then retain them during hard times. How you can generate market traction faster and keep customers happy with a workforce capacity so much smaller than established competitors. How you will pay your employees, but also yourself at the end of the month or even the year.

You are motivated, but also frustrated when reading about people exiting their startups and making a ton of money. Because things are taking much longer and are much harder than expected. Friends tell you that everything will be OK, and that you should stop being so hard to yourself. But you are also painfully aware that relaxing will not get your company to where you want and expect it to be down the road.

The above might cause you sacrificing your mental and physical health “pushing through for a while. But building a company is a marathon, not a sprint. Which is why I try to build up thesalesplaybook.io + hartmannventures.com at workweeks of 50–60h, not working weekends and giving friends, but especially my wife the time, attention and energy they deserve. Helping sustainable startups is very important to me. But that also means to be(come) sustainable as a founder.

I am curious: How are you approaching the balance of building and running a company without sacrificing your mental and physical health along the way? Let me know via manuel@hartmannventures or LinkedIn and I wish you all the best for your endeavours!

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