When people talk about starting a startup they are quick to bring up the costs associated with it. Resources, equipment, rent, employee salaries, and a myriad of other expenses are thrown around. But how many of us discuss the emotional cost a startup founder or team goes through while starting a startup. How many of us talk about burnout, stress, or mental exhaustion people go through just to get their idea floating. The most significant cost is not staffing or capital, it is actually the emotional toll a startup founder takes.
Measuring Emotional Cost
Let’s suppose you spent $1000 of the company on essential equipment required. If the startup had $5000 initially, it would be left with $4000, right? At some point, you would run out of it and you’d need to figure out where to get more.
Now imagine if we could put a numeric value on how much “emotional capital” we have in the bank, at some point, we would run out of it too right? What I mean to say is, if you do not take a step back at times and just breathe, you would drain yourselves. As startup founders, you won’t just run out of financial capital, you can also run out of emotional capital. And trust me when that happens, you can say goodbye to your dream of making your startup successful.
Running out of emotional capital isn’t something people are aware of or talk about. That is a major problem. The reason being that the cost of capital in this case is our well-being, health, mental stability, and our relationships. Ironically, it is your startup only that will suffer the most.
What I believe is that there should be a more open conversation and dialogue. One where startup founders talk about emotional cost and how to effectively manage it. There a few specific areas that inflict the most pain, and one that we dwell over. Let’s take a look at them.
Loneliness: Isolation Kills
Loneliness is the most dangerous form of addiction. Once you get used to the idea of isolation, it clings on and feeds off you. And that is something that you should definitely avoid as a startup founder.
The cost of being alone accounts for the emotional capital. In a typical job setting, you have people around you in the office, which becomes an outlet of expression. You talk to your co-workers, meet people, go out to places with them, and enjoy that collective work culture. However, when you are running a startup, you are most likely to be alone most of the time, trying desperately to make things work.
As a founder, you will always be the boss and not a colleague. You might not even be lucky to have co-workers. It might just be you, and another co-founder at best. The long days and nights without adequate communication and share can really add up over time and have devastating effects. The most problematic thing here is that no one really gets you at this time. Your friends and family won’t really understand what you are going through. They might not even approve of the road that you have taken. Since none of them are startup founders, the only person you got to rely on is yourself.
The emotional cost of being alone takes a toll on your relationships. At times like these, it is best to talk within your network. Talk to your co-founders and other startup founders. Network in your community and within the startup ecosystem. Most of where the anxiety builds are from not realizing everyone else is going through the same thing. Just being able to talk about it in the open makes a world of difference.
The Cost of Being Patient
It takes 10 years to build a company, not 10 months. Pre and Post launch everything seems exciting and appealing. However, once you are past the initial charm of it, and the arduous wait for customer kicks in, is when you realize the emotional damage waiting inflicts.
You wait for the “Ah Moment’, and look forward to the sweet sign of victory. However, you never know when that might come. Or if it will at all. This is particularly more damaging when you have set high or unreal expectations.
The only way to mitigate this feeling is to reset your expectations. Remember, patience is a virtue. The only way to keep yourself sane is to understand that a startup is a long game effort, not a short one.
The Fear of Going Broke
Thinking long term is pretty great until you’re in your rusty office at 2 am thinking about your rising credit card balance. The idea of not being able to even pay for food in the near future is bound to have a massive emotional impact on a startup founder.
Until you have that great breakthrough that you have been envisaging since the very beginning, you will be clouded by uncertainty. The idea of answering people that have high expectations from you, and then putting up a normal act is an emotional trauma of its own.
When you start working on your idea, understand and accept that it will not be a get rich quick scheme. Just put in your best, and do everything you can to make it work.
The Cost of Relationships
This is one of the major costs that might wipe out your emotional bank account. It has a long-lasting effect and is also the most difficult one to maintain and sustain. Startups and startup culture drain the life force and energy out of a relationship. The constant pressure of making your idea work, and then to put food on the table for your family simultaneously isn’t really a walk in the park.
People will say they support you, but they will never know what’s actually going on behind the face you put up on a family holiday. And that is the harsh reality. Maintaining that sweet equilibrium with your relationships is hard, yet critical. These relationships save you from being mentally drained and exhausted. You would need people that keep you sane. At the same time, however, you need to let go of people who further add on to your misery. As a startup founder, the last thing you need is toxicity in your life. So no matter how hard it may be to let go, just do it.
All of these costs accumulate and add on to the total expense a startup founder must bear. The next time you find a founder sitting right across you, remember to check upon him. He is most likely to have burned through his emotional capital and maybe trying to just take a breather.
It is essential that we normalize having conversations like these, and encourage founders to let out their emotional steam. We are all humans, and we all have our limits. Do you agree? How do you recommend regulating emotional cost? Share your thought and opinions in the comments section below. Or email us at PACE Business, and we’ll get back to you.