Entrepreneurs Share Their Journeys — New Business Highs & Lows — How To Handle Them
As a founder, you will experience highs and lows. It’s important to know how to handle these emotions in order to stay productive and motivated. In this interview series, we will be talking to founders about how they deal with the challenges of running their own business.
We asked them ONE question — Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to handle the highs and lows of being a founder?
Find their answers below
Title: CEO and Co-Founder
Company: Hera Biotech
I think that half the battle in handling the highs and the lows is knowing they will happen.
Often I think founders are so excited about the potential of their venture that they either forget or choose to ignore that there will be times when it seems impossible to move forward. In my opinion, the best way to deal with them is to recognize that they are temporary, celebrate the highs, process and learn from the lows, and know that you will come out the other side of them. Build your tribe.
I know most people probably think that they already have one, but I cannot tell you how important it is to have a group of people who are also founders, in a similar stage of their founder journey as you, to rely on when you have exciting news to share and when you are experiencing a low. It makes a world of difference just knowing you are not alone. Finally, be willing to change your perception of what progress/success looks like for your product/service/venture.
Sometimes, the low you are experiencing is because you’re being pointed in a direction away from your original view of your product or what your venture would be doing. That’s ok. Things rarely end up looking the way you thought they would when you start and often these pivots make you better in the end.
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Company: Ask Sharifah
There are a lot of challenges you experience as a business owner and entrepreneur. It is essential that you have a support system. Too often entrepreneurs feel isolated having to do every aspect of their business alone. Family and friends may not understand the struggles you are dealing with. It is important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are going through the same experience, as well as mentors who have the experience to deal with the struggles you are going through. Having to do everything yourself will eventually lead to burnout. Talk to others. Network with others. Ask for help when necessary. No man is an island and no one can get to the top alone.
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Title: Serial Entrepreneur, Television Executive Producer, Speaker, Best-Selling Author, and Nonprofit Founder
The first five years of owning our own business were a roller coaster ride. We were feast or famine — figuratively and literally. There were times we thought we could hire a couple of support people, but we couldn’t give them job security. We would get two or three big client projects at once, and with it being just the two of us, it would quickly get overwhelming. But then there were periods when there was no work. It took about five years to learn how to balance and sustain. Even though we had a lot of growing pains in the beginning, we were always productive and busy making things happen. Attending events, getting involved with our community, and leaning on other entrepreneurs for support and advice helped us stay motivated. We still do these simple things for that reason today. For me, this means being involved with my local chamber of commerce and economic development. Not only do you make connections through these organizations, but you can also build momentum by getting past gatekeepers. There’s a belief that if you can make it past your fifth year of business, you can survive. Well, when 2008 hit and the economy got tough, that was our fifth year of business — and it was a rocky year. Everything was crashing, and businesses weren’t spending money on things like video production anymore. We had to find a pivot, and we started to question if we should go back to our previous jobs in the Los Angeles entertainment industry or if we just needed to find something to string us to the next thing. But instead, we leveraged the situation as motivation to make the business work. We went back to basics, knocking on doors and meeting with people face to face to make things happen. That was the same time we moved our family and our business from North County, San Diego to Temecula. We changed our cash flow priorities and got involved in our new local community, and that also helped us sail through the tough patch, and we started to grow from there. We got good at creating multiple lines of revenue, and with the expansion and start of JDS Actors Studio, we went from being strictly B2B to also being B2C. Later, we founded the nonprofit JDS Creative Academy, and it grew from a self-funded nonprofit into a million-dollar nonprofit that we no longer need to self-fund. While reaching this level of success, there were high highs and low lows. In the beginning, I missed having coworkers to vent to and collaborate with. Years later, it’s lonely in a different way. I have staff, but I can’t talk candidly with them like I would with coworkers because they’re my employees. Entrepreneurship can be very isolating. But it can also be very rewarding. I make my own schedule. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. I own two homes, and I can travel with my family. Those rewards help me push past the hard days. Taking a moment to acknowledge everything you’ve achieved also helps you pick yourself up on the bad days and remember that you’ve overcome struggles before and will do it again. Building the mindset of an entrepreneur means creating your own confidence bank to draw from on the hard days. I wouldn’t trade my worst day as an entrepreneur for my best day as an employee.
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Company: Atlas Tea Club
Running a business is HARD. But it’s also AMAZING. I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world, and I’m proud to say that my team and I are making an impact in our industry.
When I first started out, I didn’t think about the challenges of running a business. All I wanted was a successful company, and I knew that if we worked hard enough, we could do it.
But as time went on and things got more complicated, I realized that running a business isn’t just about your product or service—it’s about building relationships with customers and vendors alike. And those relationships can be challenging sometimes!
Company: Electrician Apprentice HQ
Experienced Lows In The Beginning
When I branched out on my own as a freelance electrician, life was pretty tough – couldn’t find clients, had a hard time generating revenue, etc. The same thing happened when I launched my online company – a web resource for budding electricians. As a matter of fact, I almost gave up on both.
Now Experiencing Highs
Now my day job so to speak is thriving and my online business is really beginning to gain a foothold as well. It’s a great feeling knowing all of the hard work I put in on both ends.
Learned How To Manage Both Along The Way
I guess through a lot of trial and error, I learned how to manage both along the way. In the beginning all I really had to fall back on was faith in myself and believing in the business plan I had set up for my traditional career but more particularly my website. Now that I’ve rounded the corner so to speak, I also know that you should never enjoy yourself too much. The life of a founder/entrepreneur always has lots of ups and downs, and I know that I’m only one bad month away from having to be really careful with what I do in terms of finances and a range of other topics. In the end, it’s al about keeping an even keel.
Company: Coach Foundation
“People who aren’t on the verge of losing their minds are more likely to be self-pitying. When someone is feeling sorry for themselves, it suggests they haven’t experienced enough sorrow to make a difference.”
I’ve always been a business person. I’ve never worked before. I worked at Wagamama for a day before being dismissed because I spilled orange juice on the Regional Director, which irritated him. That was my sole job in my whole life. Since then, I’ve been running my own company.
First, it is inspiring to create a product that you would like to use yourself. The ability to work intensely and persevere for extended periods of time is made simpler by motivation, which is a crucial component of success and personal growth. Additionally, more individuals will be driven to create the product for the same reasons, making it simpler to assemble a team and increasing everyone’s own motivation. It might inspire you to create something that your buddies will like since you know they’ll want to utilize it.
Second, if you utilize a product yourself, your instinct will be more in tune with the best course of action for the company. In any case, market research and tests are helpful, but occasionally it’s necessary to invest money and deviate from the iterative ROI-maximizing course that they would suggest. This may be necessary to enter a new market or to get several interlocking improvements to work together. Designing a plan in such a situation requires great intuition and trust in that insight.
You can develop this intuition over time as you operate a business if you are not a typical consumer of your product, but probably won’t have it right away since you haven’t been introduced to customers’ tastes.
In my field, there are rivals. There are rivals who are better funded, have more contacts, and know more about the business. When it’s David vs. Goliath, what do you do? You go through the motions that all Davids go through. You compete on the basis of price. There will always be bigger individuals out there, so you’ll have to compete for the client’s business.
I do things that I’m sure the big boys would never do. They’ll never provide that much worth. Even if they come to comprehend and grasp its value, creating it takes so much time and work that it isn’t even worth it.
Venkatesh C R
Company: Dot Com Infoway
As a CEO, I’ve certainly had thrilling moments in my career where I’ve felt on top of the world. But it’s not always a bed of roses as most people believe. There have been periods of slump and decline. Here are some of my highs and lows as a leader, and how I deal with both situations:
So let me start with the highs:
So I’m typically at the top of the hierarchy. This means I have more freedom to make important decisions around our marketing, brand direction, critical core processes, and much more. However, I’ve found out the hard way that this can also be a double-edged sword because the bark stops with me and I’ve had to make some tough calls. However, to keep independence in check, I always try to make decision-making a team effort because I believe any good business is a culmination of others’ inputs.
Being in a position of leadership at the top can be very rewarding financially. When you do a good job, it also opens the door for lucrative opportunities away from my primary business. It wasn’t always so, because at the start, balancing the books wasn’t always easy hence I had to take a cut more often than not. I try to keep this memory fresh in my mind, while ensuring every project we take on at my company is driven toward ROI, increasing profitably, and keeping our business afloat.
Now, onto some of my lows:
The learning curve can be steep because you have to wear so many hats as a CEO. Sometimes it can get overwhelming to the point of frustration. I’ve found that, to counter this, it’s important to have an expert team behind you that you can trust, because we can’t all know everything. We need each other to grow and excel. Patience and organization are also skills I’ve had to work at to beat this.
CEOs tend to be workaholics, at least, I know am I. It’s easy to get carried away with the business. You want to be hands-on and make sure everything is going according to plan, which may mean lots of overtime and little time for yourself and your family. To get around this, I try to schedule regular breaks and instead put faith in my team that they will deliver. This allows me to step back when I need to so that I’m back fresher than ever to drive my business forward.
Often data can tell you one thing about your business, but your gut may say otherwise. People often say that numbers don’t lie but when human consumers are involved, you need more than numbers to get the whole picture. While I never let my gut overrule my decisions, I try to factor in both data and that inner voice and it has served me well.
Title: CEO & co-founder
Business is an essential part of the entrepreneur’s life, and we all have our ups and downs. During my experience as an entrepreneur and a co-founder at Flowwow, I’ve come up with several rules that help me treat both highs and lows with care.
– Appreciate every positive moment that happens to your business; don’t underestimate it. Your company has earned $10k – you’re doing great, keep going; don’t think it’s nothing because Google’s earned $1bln. It’s only the start of your journey.
– Don’t let your first success infatuate you. Your company’s reached its first $10k? That’s brilliant! However, it doesn’t mean you should immediately hire a PR Vice President and fly first class. Your first success is not a guarantee; proceed with care.
– Be grateful. Your first steps and your success were made possible with somebody’s support: it’s not only your perseverance, luck, or universe (although these are incredibly important, too!), but your team and partners, too. Thank people for their help – it’s vital.
– Don’t let your negative emotions lead you; what happened has already happened. Direct your energy towards thinking of ways to fix it, if it can be fixed. Investigating who is to blame and shouting around is a waste of time and energy. Low moments are our teachers, which allow us to reach the next stage of growth.
– Don’t destruct yourself. Statistics show the percentage of people with addictions among entrepreneurs is much higher than in our society on average. This is a popular way to hide from difficult emotions (especially among those who have not yet discovered advantages that come from the physical activity). Take care of yourself, especially in your low moments: your business, your team – and yourself indeed – need you strong and healthy.
Ultimately, find yourself a community with a supportive culture by communicating with other entrepreneurs. All of them face similar problems, someone has already found a solution and can help you while you can help someone as well.
Company: Low Income Relief
As the founder of a business, it is so easy to be consumed by the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, highs and lows that every business experiences. It can become all-consuming if you aren’t careful.
There are three things that have helped me endure the highs and lows that I’ve experienced.
First, you need a great business coach. As a founder, sometimes you are too close to your business to see it clearly. Sometimes, you may develop pet projects that are deeply meaningful to you but overall harmful to your bottom line. Honestly, I think Mark Zuckerberg’s current obsession with the metaverse is an example of this. A business coach can provide an objective outside perspective that can help keep you stay on course and make good decisions. Find a mentor or coach you can trust, as soon as you possibly can.
Second, you need a great therapist. As a founder, it’s easy to take every loss personally. You may find yourself experiencing deep depression when your business is struggling. It can be hard to remember that you are not your business. A therapist can help you untangle yourself, empowering you to live a fulfilling and meaningful personal life that doesn’t get enmeshed with the business itself. Protecting your mental health and strengthening your emotional resilience can help unlock your creativity, which is a powerful asset for your business.
Third, you need to build an identity outside of work. Deepen your friendships and family relationships. Cultivate hobbies. Meditate. Spend time in nature. The more you can stay grounded and develop a healthy work-life balance, the more emotional resilience you’ll carry with you into your work.
I know it sounds counterintuitive. However, after years of running my business and experiencing cycles of burnout, I’ve learned that when the business is struggling I usually need to lean out (into my non-work life) instead of leaning in (and focusing more on work). You can’t fix anything when you’re experiencing burnout or you’re obsessively fixated on the problem. You often need to find your balance, recenter, and find a fresh perspective in order to work through a low period.
Title: CEO and Founder
Company: Derm Dude
1. Don’t celebrate the early wins too hard and more importantly, don’t drown in any specific setbacks.
Starting your own business is making a huge bet on your entire business concept, product/service, and the big-picture long-term outcome. It’s very easy, especially at the very outset, to place way too much emphasis on the successes or failures of specific, singular initiatives within your entire business. Otherwise, you can end up overly confident or adversely doubting your overall bigger-picture vision that you bet on in the first place. Example: Every day, we watched brands start to explode on Tik Tok. We had virtually no experience on that platform, and our initial attempts fell very flat. So we began ‘chasing trends’ of other brands and creators, which is the exact opposite of what Derm Dude does as a brand. Not surprisingly, this did not work. I personally was considering abandoning the platform altogether. Then, almost as an afterthought, we recorded a short clip of myself speaking with a friend about Derm Dude, explaining our new ball care line of products. No pitch, no angel or marketing plan, just the founder of Derm Dude being as real as it gets talking to a friend who dropped by our office one afternoon. I did not even realize the clip would be posted to our social pages. But it was. And within 24 hours, that short video had over 1 million views on TikTok. Now it is over 5 million and helped us launch a very strong TikTok presence for Derm Dude that is ongoing with constant new and updated content). What was the difference between videos getting a few hundred views and then 1 million a day? Just a few days. And not walking away from who we are and our authentic vision for our brand. Or giving up on opportunities just because they don’t magically explode out of the gate.
2. Remind yourself WHY you started your brand. DAILY.
Derm Dude™ is a men’s grooming brand primarily focused on products for balls, beards and tattoos. Early on in a new business venture, it is normal to be inundated with advice and recommendations from anyone and everyone. Some you want, some you wish would just go away. I’m a big believer in sifting through advice and ideas and being extremely open to ideas that are not your own. Some of the best ideas we execute into successes come from people other than me. Or they are suggestions people make to improve ideas I may already have. But sometimes, especially as the founder and main voice and vision for your brand, you also need to be confident enough in yourself to go with your gut. Even when that means not going along with advice from other people you respect and trust. With Derm Dude, we are fortunate to have a diverse team of people who contribute tremendously to our success and growth. But there are key times I remind myself of a very critical reality. I am a 50-year-old dude with many tattoos, a beard and balls. If a product or marketing concept or creative idea doesn’t make sense or appeal to ME, why would I be overly confident it will appeal to other dudes in the sweet spot of our core demo? It’s great to be open-minded regarding trusted advice, genuine guidance, and data and analysis, but at the end of the day, your biggest bet, especially when it counts the most, should always be on yourself and your strongest internal beliefs.
3. Failing is good. It’s the most certain path to success as long as you keep going and know that backwards is never an option.
A few years ago I heard someone make the following acronym using the word F-A-I-L:
First Attempt in Learning. F-A-I-L
It’s simple, genius and 100% true. Yet, we are oddly taught that failing is a negative thing worthy of shame. I could not disagree more, ESPECIALLY for someone starting a new business. If you actually expect to launch a new business and never fail at any part along the way, you’re already doomed out of the gate. In fact, the very best decisions you will make and the biggest wins you will achieve will almost all come directly from things you try prior that don’t work out as you intend or hope. But the real victory is the KNOWLEDGE you get each time you try. And try again. As long as you stay positive and learn from every step, every test and every attempt, it’s almost a mathematical fact that you WILL succeed as long as you keep believing in yourself and your vision. And use any failure along the way as a gift that gets you one step closer to the winner’s circle. Thomas Edison from the great nation of New Jersey once said, “I didn’t fail 10,000 times. I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work!”. Amen to that, Dude.
4. No Plan B.
Don’t give yourself any excuses or options to not succeed. If you walk around with a parachute or a ‘plan b’, you will end up needing to use it. Nothing motivates a person more than having no options other than forward to success. For this reason, I have tattooed on my finger where I can’t miss seeing it multiple times daily, the words “no plan b”.
Title: Chief Executive Officer
Company: Rogue Ramms
We started Rogue Ramms right before COVID (that was one thing not covered by any contingency plan!), and, like everyone, we definitely experienced our share of highs and lows. Through this, we’ve learned the importance of: Adapt, Celebrate, Eco-friendly, Self-care — we call it ACES.
Adapt: The ability to Adapt quickly was drilled into us early. We learned the importance of always being willing to adapt and of listening to our customers’ and employees’ input. Celebrate: We take the time to Celebrate the good things (for example, throwing a party when we hit goals). Eco-friendly: We also are committed to being Eco-friendly — without the earth, there would be no company! We all try to work for a better, healthier, balanced world. This is the biggest win-win there is! Self-care: And at the end of the day, Self-care is what will keep you better, healthier, and having a balanced life! It’s important for us and our employees — for everyone.
Rogue Ramms has been a blessing. It’s helped me and all of us learn, grow, focus, and always strive to be better!
Title: CEO & Founder
Company: BPS Security
Something that has been a huge help for me in managing the extreme highs and lows that my business has had, is being self-aware enough to put my emotions about a situation on hold if needed. The time I spent as a security guard and in the Military taught me how to either allow or repress my emotions depending on what kind of situation I am facing, but the first step was always becoming aware of where you’re at. If your head is in a bad place, you need to know it’s in a bad place and be able to respond to that knowledge. Obviously you don’t want to repress all your emotions, that’s not healthy. But having the ability to acknowledge and interact with your own emotions is a great tool in sustaining a business through the tough times. It helped me to make level-headed decisions even when things were extremely difficult, and is part of why I’m still in business today.