The life of a startup CEO isn’t easy. The list of challenges, including juggling cash, attracting talent, and never having enough resources, is long. It’s hard work that requires passion and endurance, its obstacles will test even the strongest entrepreneurs. And, it’s lonely. Being transparent about company challenges to employees is not the same thing as sharing personal angst, and friends and family may not always understand.
Experienced CEOs know what they’re taking on, but new founders may feel like they’re hit with a two-by-four. While they must be able to thrive in an ever-changing environment, there are times when it can feel overwhelming, deflating, frustrating, or [fill in the blank]. Just as there are the highs of success with the first sale or big partnership, it is important to accept that the lows exist, too – despite smiling CEOs on social media sharing their unicorn achievements. This is completely normal, and we should talk about it more often.
As an investor, I often joke that I spend more time on entrepreneurial therapy than I do funding companies. It’s discouraging that most entrepreneurs think they are the only ones that need help, and women entrepreneurs are even less likely to reach out for assistance as they worry they may be perceived as weak.
Every entrepreneur needs a group or mentor with whom they can share failures and hard times. For many years, I ran a women’s entrepreneurial program where 10-12 founders would meet monthly. While the technical training was important, the gem was the support network we created. Having a safe place to say “I don’t know” can make the difference between feeling inadequate and being able to laugh at how common this fear really is.
As investors, we don’t spend enough time making sure entrepreneurs have the mental health support they need. It’s the hidden problem that can lead to poor decision-making, team morale issues, and loss of passion. So, here’s a call to action for all startup ecosystems:
- When you see the stress, address and normalize it.
- Offer mental health programming in addition to the standard startup skills.
- Create safe spaces for CEOs to share concerns and support each other.
Great startup CEOs are developed, not born. Supporting entrepreneurs goes far beyond teaching them how to manage cashflow or scale sales. Focusing on mental health is a must if we want to grow strong, vibrant, and sustainable startups in our communities.
Visit www.investdetroit.vc to learn more about Patti Glaza & ID Ventures.