Are You A Business Startup Addict?

I'm an addict. Turns out, I fit the profile of startup addict -- entrepreneurs who are addicted to building new businesses. While I don't want an "intervention" and I don't want to make a "full" recovery, I am fully aware of my addiction. And I've taken a few (but not many) steps to keep the addiction under control.

As BusinessWeek puts it:

"Startup founders are known to forsake food, family, and the light of day to get their companies off the ground. People who put themselves through the process more than once earn the label of serial entrepreneurs. Three business school professors would like to suggest another phrase: addicts."

After Nines Inc. is my fourth startup. I've had direct ownership or co-ownership in three of them. Ditto for After Nines' co-founder, Amy Katz.

So how can you remain a startup addict without letting it destroy everything around you -- friends, family, etc.? Here are a few tips.

1. Dinner Time Is Dinner Time: I missed dinner all the time during our previous startup. Now, I don't. Our family of five typically has dinner together every night. Admittedly, I'm back online a bit thereafter. But no work calls are scheduled during dinner.

2. Dinner Table Is No Tech Zone: During dinner, all digital gadgets are turned off and safely stored away from the dinner table.

3. Vacations Are Vacations: I'm off next week. I'll be writing zero blogs (well, unless something really impressive happens on vacation). 

4. It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint: We've all seen company hackathons -- endless, around-the-clock coding to get the next big launch out the door. Speed to market is crazy important these days. But you have to balance speed against sustainability. How long can you sustain your pace of work? At our last company, the answer for me was about 3.5 years. Then I had to slow down and delegate. A lot. I wish I had done it sooner. This time, Amy and I are really looking hard for ways to automate as much of the business in our early years -- and then potentially delegate in our later years.

5. Put Your Family On Your Calendar: As I mentioned, I've got a family vacation set for next week. On December 1, my wife and I will be heading to a concert. In late December, we're set to attend a family function. In January, I'm set to go skiing with my middle son while my wife travels with our two other sons. The point is: Pre-schedule all of your family events before you put anything else on your calendar. Suddenly, your calendar will reinforce your true life priority: Your family.

6. Have An End-Game: If you're working at a pace that is not sustainable, you need to know your end game: IPO, company sale, personal exit, new hires? What is the end game that (A) makes you less busy and (B) scales or evolves the business?

Everybody tells you that they don't have an end-game. The politically correct answer to that question goes something like this: "Our business will be built to succeed -- and because of that strategy, the end-game will present itself without us having to look for the end-game." 

I call bull****. I realize you often can't build a company to sell it. But if you don't have a personal end game that scales back your time commitments to a business... you'll eventually flame out.

And I personally hate to hear about startup addicts who overdose on a good thing. Plan now... and you'll be able to scale back later... and maybe even beg your family for permission to do yet another startup.

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