How to Succeed as a Startup Founder: 4 Essential Steps


The world needs healthy, high-performing startup founders. That’s often how things change for the better. Yet, so many founders don’t fit this description, and it makes sense why. 

Building a business is incredibly hard. There are so many unknowns and unforeseen challenges. Founders carry the weight of success and failure, plus all the pressure that comes with employing other people. They’re tasked with generating attractive returns for investors and delivering exceptional services to customers. 

Meanwhile, startup founders typically do things differently. They approach problems in new ways and create opportunities where there were none before. Consequently, there are no straightforward playbooks or examples to follow. Startups forge their own path forward, which is equally exciting and scary. 

In general, there are more paths to failure than success, so founders have to take care of themselves if they want to maximize their chances of coming out on top. With that in mind, here are four steps startup leaders can take to be their best champion.

Find a Mentor

Startup founders often feel isolated and alone. The journey of building a business from scratch is a long and arduous one with countless ups and downs. Leading a startup is much more than a job, it’s a way of living, which is why non-founders have such a hard time relating to the founder experience. 

Though it’s easier than ever for founders to connect with other founders, the real win is finding a reliable mentor who has the ability and willingness to offer advice, guidance, and resources that empower founders to tackle their hardest problems. If you’re a startup founder, you need someone who is in your corner who not only understands what you’re going through but also has the wisdom to help you succeed. 

A great mentor can be the difference between you coming up and short and knocking it out of the park. And finding a mentor is in no way a sign of weakness. It’s a smart move that only increases your chances of success. 

Learn Continuously

As a founder, it can be hard to work on anything remotely taxing outside of your business. That’s why so many startup leaders stop intentionally investing in their own skill development and knowledge. Of course, there is so much that can be learned in the trenches of running a startup. But there’s tremendous value in going outside of your everyday circles and responsibilities. 

One of the easiest ways to continue learning is by reading about other businesses and startup leaders. Get in the habit of reading 30 minutes each night or on the bus rather than checking email. You can also listen to audiobooks or podcasts - really anything that exposes you to new ideas and philosophies about how to improve your business. 

Maintain Work-life Balance

This point might seem ridiculous to those of you working 100-hour weeks to get your startup off the ground, but it’s important. You have to find some semblance of work-life balance if you hope to survive over the long term. Burnout is everywhere in the startup sector and it has the power to kill all momentum.

The key is to understand that work-life balance doesn’t mean that you spend equal amounts of time working and “living” during any given week. It means that you give each category the appropriate amount of time depending on your goals in that particular season. For example, if your goal is to be a more available parent, you probably should not spend 95% of your waking hours at work and 5% at home. On the other hand, if you’re single and deeply motivated by your business, a 95/5 split might be exactly what you need. 

Just know that the “play” portion of your week has to include rest and other activities that give you energy. Otherwise, you’ll eventually have nothing to give to your startup.

Nourish Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Related to the last point, you have to nourish your mind, body, and soul to maintain the best version of yourself. It’s that person you want working on your business day in and day out. That’s who comes up with brilliant ideas, treats people well, and produces incredible results. 

To get there, you can’t ignore the mind, body, and soul trifecta. Your mind needs sharpening (e.g., through continuous learning), and your body needs care. If you don’t eat well and maintain some level of fitness, your physical health will detract from your mental health. And if you forget to care for your soul, you’ll lose sight of why you are doing what you are in the first place. 

Finally, don’t forget to cut yourself some slack. No one is perfect, not even you! Everyone makes mistakes, especially when tackling something as hard as building a startup. Give yourself some grace and extend it to others as well. Doing so creates a healthy workplace in which people feel safe to take risks and grow. 

Follow these steps to ensure you bring the best version of yourself to work every day. Only then can you handle the immense challenge of leading a startup - and having fun while doing it!

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