A couple of months ago, I started working on my new startup and I set myself a bit of a “soft” goal: I wanted to try create a startup that generates $1m in annual revenue and I wanted to work only 5 or 6 hours a day.
The motivation for that goal was to seek greater work+life balance. In my past, working 80+ hours was the norm for me and I really become addicted to being connected to any of my devices (Macbook, iPhone or iPad). The fact that I had founded an “always-on” startup obviously didn’t help with that.
All of this reached a tipping point for me 12 months ago. And I committed (to myself and my family) that I wouldn’t relapse to those old, bad habits again.
But a couple of months into my new startup journey and I already feel immense pressure (and temptation) to go back to my old ways.
We all know startups are hard and it mostly runs on fear. And I know that it is that fear that is piling on the pressure to work more and literally throw time at the problem. Because the underlying belief is that, that de-risks what we’re doing.
Time is critical there, because every early-stage startup has a runway which is dictated by money in the bank. For my new startup that runway is $100k long.
All of that said though, I’d still argue that our generally-held beliefs about startups are broken.
So it’s somewhere within this grey area between startup “best-practice” (or ideals as preached by everyone) and the notion that I can craft a better work+life balance, that I’m pursuing a family-first startup. These are the types of questions that I’m asking myself, which has lead me here:
- What’s more important to me right now?
- Am I willing to sacrifice certain things in the short-term (i.e. time with my family) in return for longer-term gain (i.e. having a successful startup)?
- Does investing more hours into my startup (even if those are smart hours and not just “more”) make it more successful or less risky?
- How quickly do I want to accelerate our progress and / or growth? How does that influence our bootstrapped runway?
If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the last 6 years of my entrepreneurial journey, it’s that my family is the most important part of my life. I’m convinced that I would not be as happy or as successful as I am today without my family.
And in the last 2 years that “value” doubled, when I welcomed my first-born into the world.
So in the vein of making PublicBeta a family-first startup, here’s some of the decisions I’ve made and actions I’m taking:
No amount of long-term gain can ever compensate for missing out on experiences (especially first-time experiences) with my son. Life is happening right now and the sacrifice of missing out on that is just not worth it for me.
I’m naturally a hard worker, which means I don’t mind working hard (especially when I’m passionate about what I’m doing). But I do need to create a framework within which that is okay. Part of that framework is to always work smart, work on priority items only and block of certain times where work is most definitely not allowed (i.e. between 5pm & 7pm on weekdays when it’s family time).
I don’t know how quick is quick enough and how that relates to our runway. I know there’s a balance to that, but there’s no perfect plan that I could implement. I’m mostly making any investment decisions (time, money and / or capacity) based on intuition and what feels right.
I know that I need to redefine what I regard as being successful and how that translates to what we’re doing with PublicBeta. Is generating a $1m in annual revenue the only way that I would feel successful? Probably not. I could probably feel just as successful having a startup with a small team (5 / 6) people, where we are profitable and we get to pursue our passion (helping other entrepreneurs), regardless of how close or far we are from $1m in revenue.
I know the biggest challenge here is accepting that there’s no absolute right or wrong answer in this regard. That is partly why this is so damn hard.
I am however allowing myself to be guided (in my tactical decision-making at least) by the goal that I want to create a startup where I can consistently put my family first. That is what is important to me.
That is also one of the reasons why I decided to become an entrepreneur and work on my own things. I don’t like being put into a box. Instead I believe that I’d rather craft my own box; whether that’s bigger, better or just plain different to the generic boxes out there.
I’m an entrepreneur, because I believe that I can create startups for whatever reason I want. Working on something I’m passionate about is one of those reasons.
The primary reason though is to (help) create the best-possible life for and with my family.