The Journey Ahead – Startup Highs and Lows

By Suzanna de Boer
Suzanna de Boer

It’s great - you’ve arrived. You’ve come a long, long way, and you’ve met all the challenges and obstacles thus far and made it happen. You’re up and running and now, finally, your new startup business is in operation. But this initial success of bringing your ideas to the marketplace with your new business concept is just the beginning. You know you need to stay the course, no matter what comes your way. But what will come your way, and how will you deal with it?

You probably remember the bell curve from your first Statistics or Econ 101 class. There’s a lot of space on either side of that bell to signify the breadth of experiences you will have, and that’s where you’ll be most of the time, while you’re on the most challenging journey you will ever embark upon. Stress? Yes, of course, you signed up for it. But if you have a general idea of what’s coming at you, you can work to develop the attitude you want to have about it, which will determine how you will handle it. There will be more lows than highs at the beginning till you really get rolling. But if you already know that, you will be much better prepared for the ups and downs that will accompany every startup.


So, is there a way to make it easier for yourself? Yes, and it’s simpler than you think. Any entrepreneur will liken the experience of beginning your startup to that of being on a rollercoaster. No other metaphor describes it so precisely, which is why you’ve heard the phrase countless times. You will have incredible wins and highs, then neutral spaces where you feel completely comfortable and in control, and suddenly … plummets to the low end of your comfort zone. And all of these experiences will be part of your business life during your initial startup phase.

But knowing more about these highs and lows ahead of time gives you time to develop your awareness and strategy of how you’re going to handle these fluctuations. So read on and find out some tried and true ways of how to conduct your journey to your greatest startup success.


Financial Challenges Cause Stress

You’ve just launched. You are not yet at the point that you can enjoy many of the perks that will be available once you grow, so you’re on a skeletal budget and framework. It could be that you don’t have anywhere near enough employees. Or that the technology that would make it all much easier and more streamlined is not yet in the budget. You are the one who needs to jump in wearing many hats because you just don’t have the financial resources you need to make it happen. As a result, you’re working at the edge of your comfort zone, and can find yourself quickly in a burnout scenario.

But the truth is, most startups are begun on a very limited budget, and will have to produce results without a great deal of money upfront. It will take a while to move into a cash flow position that doesn’t keep you awake nights, but you can do it.

During this period you’ll have to be especially clever about how you employ limited capital and time resources, and make do with what you’ve got. It’s best to keep in mind the old adage “less is more”, even if that is not part of your belief system – yet. Because you will have to make limited resources and time work to your advantage.

Another important point to consider is the following: don’t let the inevitable financial stress most entrepreneurs experience in the early stages of a startup affect your relationships with the people you are working with in your startup, or with your colleagues within the industry.

As you progress, as you are taking each step necessary to making your venture successful and profitable, you will gain the experience you need to be able to meet the financial goals you have set for yourself. You will learn as you go to find opportunity wherever it may be, and begin to scale your business as you go forward. And for this, you need all the players you have assembled around you to be playing for the team, and not angry because of workplace stress issues that may have been created by your own personal stress. It’s going to be stressful, so find a way to stay calm no matter what confronts you. Once you get to the other side of those initial financial hurdles, your team will still be with you, on your side, and they will trust your judgement because they have experienced your calm leadership under pressure.


Maintain Your Work-Life Balance

You’ve probably already realized that you will not have a lot of time for much else during this intense phase of your startup. If you had an active social life before you began your startup, this old social life will take a big hit.

This could be a definite low point as you devote all available time to your startup, and one that you can’t dwell upon. Any time you spend away from your business now should be carefully considered.

Think about what you could do to offset the fact that you no longer have the time you had before to devote to your friends. Make time for them if you can in group settings, and be sure to work on maintaining your business networks too. Get out there and mingle with those people regularly, and you will have a circle of support. You may find out in a casual conversation something that is going on that you haven’t heard about or had time to assess. Knowledge gained by keeping in touch with a lot of people in and around your industry could really affect your startup.

Also, if you have a family that used to enjoy spending more time with you, they need to know that you will be away a lot during this startup period. They should be prepared as much as possible for all the time you must spend at your business. You will need their understanding to help you through the low points, so that they will be by your side to celebrate the high points too.

And seriously, take good care of yourself. During your startup phase, you do not need the additional pressure of emotional issues on your plate. You do not have the option of losing valuable time dealing with crises at home, or working to mend relationships that have deteriorated because of your absence.


Your Well-Being is Important

It’s really important to maintain your own well-being throughout, physical as well as emotional. Although working long hours will be the norm, you should still try to schedule time for a bit of fitness, even if it’s only a long walk at lunch with your team. Any activity you can do will help to keep your spirits high and your head clearer, to make the decisions you have to make at every turn. You’ve got to be in excellent shape mentally as well as physically to successfully take on the challenges that you will face, and always select the best option for moving forward.

Meditation is also a good practice for entrepreneurs to take up, as much research has already proven. In fact, a recent study in Consciousness and Cognition showed that even the briefest training in meditating showed that participants demonstrated “higher measures of mood, better verbal and non-verbal reasoning, and an improved ability to hold and manipulate information in their heads”.

You will want to be able to process information quickly, and correlate multiple incoming sources to make decisions. Meditation will allow you to build your ability to focus and think with clarity.

Resilience – your Best Skillset

Your ability to take a hit and come back up swinging will make all the difference in your startup’s eventual success. That’s what resilience is, the strength and the determination to make it happen, no matter what the obstacles. It will serve you well if you know how to develop it.

In a recent Inc.com article, resilience was listed as the most important factor to make sure your venture becomes successful. Consider the level of resilience that James Dyson showed as he continued to build 5,127 prototypes before he found the right one, and subsequently became the best known company in the vacuum industry, or the resilience that Joanne Rowling showed after she received many rejection letters for her first novel, but finally got a publisher for the first book in the Harry Potter series and went on to unimaginable success, becoming the first billionaire author.

Your will to persevere will also often be tested, and you have to be ready to stay the course. But in the midst of these difficult tests, it’s encouraging to remember that each challenge will help you to develop your full potential as a successful entrepreneur. The wisdom you gain will serve you in unimaginable ways as you move through all the stages of your startup, from the beginning to reaching the goal of success that you have imagined.¬

Change Will be Constant, So Stay on Top of It

Embracing the reality that change is going to be a daily constant will take you a long way on your founder’s journey. Your ability to move with every new development in the marketplace will make or break you. It’s like a choreography that never ends, so don’t be afraid to try a few new moves and most importantly, keep moving. Don’t let your team stand still either. Help them to understand that you need them to be on the cutting edge of whatever’s happening now, whether it’s the competition, new ways of addressing the market, or the latest innovation that becomes a game-changer for all players.



Can you take it to the limit and actually learn to enjoy the uncertainty, and survive the lows and wait patiently for the highs? Yes, you can. It’s possible and many entrepreneurs do it.

Remember if you wanted predictability, you would not have embarked onto this path into the unknown. You would not have identified markets, created something out of nothing, and brought your product or service vision to fruition. That’s for the courageous among us.

Why not make a decision to just enjoy the chaos, and the lows as well as the highs? Learn to make it work for you. Learn to love it too. Discipline yourself to smile when you feel like you’ve made a wrong move, and then give it another go with even more energy and insight. Don’t give up, no matter what. Change your approach if need be. See what the highs and lows are telling you. Listen carefully. Activate that part of you that savors finding out what the marketplace is looking for. Adapt at every turn if needed, and actually begin to enjoy the challenge of doing that.

Be ready to experience the lows that will most certainly arrive, and realize that they are useful to building your business savvy and long-term successes. You just can’t stay there too long, and need to get moving again. Remind yourself constantly of your sources of inspiration and find a way out of the lows sooner.

As you work to build your skills and competencies in clever and effective ways, each day you will gain more and more traction, and your highs will be on their way to you. Those highs, and even those lows on the way to your future profitability and success will make you glad you decided to take the entrepreneur’s journey.