For a long time, the most commonly held belief about how to succeed as an entrepreneur was simple - work hard and put in the hours.
This was even more the case when the business faced a challenge, which happens often as you’re building a high-growth company. If times are tough or things get bumpy, put your head down and work harder. This approach was so widely accepted that it was hardly ever questioned.
But if you stop to think about it logically - this overly simplistic philosophy doesn’t make any sense. Yes, being a founder is going to be extremely hard work. And yes, you will have to put in a lot of hours if you want your company to succeed. But there is a point of diminishing returns when simply working more, under sustained, stressful conditions, starts to have a negative impact rather than improving the likelihood of success.
If pushed to an extreme, it can result in burnout, which might mean taking large chunks of time off work, or quitting altogether. Studies have shown that 5% of startups fail because of founder burnout. While that might not seem like a huge number, it is an avoidable one. And even if things don’t go that far, issues like chronic stress and lack of sleep can negatively impact decision making, creativity, and trickle down to affect the rest of the team.
However, if we apply what we’ve learned through scientific research about how humans perform under stress, and what is required to optimise for peak performance, you immediately understand that there is much more to the formula for success. Rather than just focusing on more hours at work, long-term performance can be hugely improved by paying attention to factors like sleep, time management, nutrition, exercise, mental health and maintaining strong support networks. This is already well known and accepted in other disciplines, with performance athletes being a perfect example. Professional athletes don’t train at 100% intensity every single day and ignore everything else. They have detailed training programmes that factor in rest days, nutrition, and sleep. And a team of people around them providing support, guidance and encouragement.
Because this isn’t how things have always been done in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, it requires a shift in mindset. We believe it is critically important to focus not just on the quantity of work input, but also founder wellbeing and quality of output. Not only is it the right thing to do, but we also believe that a holistic approach will ultimately produce the best returns for our firm and the founders and CEOs we work with.
We are committed to building a programme of holistic support for founders and CEOs, and want to make sure we understand the challenges they are facing - especially with the current economic backdrop - and identify what we can do to help them thrive.