The Problem With Founder Paranoia
I started my organic skincare line, S.W. Basics, in my kitchen. I worked as the sole employee (while maintaining other jobs at the same time) for two years. Up until a little over a year ago, there were never more than four of us on the team at one time. This month, we hired our eighth, ninth and 10th employee.
For the first time, I feel relieved. I find myself taking deep breaths over and over – and they aren't for coping with stress (although those still happen too). Now they're deep breaths that reflect that everything is going to be okay. We're doing this.
But I find myself getting in my own way over and over. I don't trust anybody. I'm the one that originally filled every role in the company, from making product to packing boxes to answering customers to building wholesale relationships. It's almost impossible for me to pass these jobs over to other people, even if they're significantly more competent than I'll ever be. I have the gut conviction that I know my brand better than anybody and for that reason, I should also be doing everything.
The problem with this approach is that I've ended up paranoid and bitter. I'm tired, cranky and resentful. I'm the "Lord of the Organic Cream," and I don't want anyone touching my precious products. When people give me advice, I mentally self-soothe -- they don't know my business, they don't know me and besides, how many hours do they think I have in a day?
For example, we sell our products in Target stores nationwide. All of our products, in all Target stores. Yet over and over people will hear that and say to us, "But why aren't you selling in Whole Foods? You should definitely try to get in there." If you're an entrepreneur who has heard something like this before about your own business, you probably just had a similar reaction to mine. For everyone else: It's a quiet rage that gets masked with "Totally, we love Whole Foods and are working hard to get in there. We'll keep you posted for sure!!" (All true, by the way.)
How it feels to own a business comes in waves. Some waves are magnificent and uplifting and so high they're scary. Others smack you in the face and make you feel like you're drowning -- you question everything you know. Both types of waves can make you feel like you are on a private, lonely island (because no one gets it except you). That's not true though. Lots of people get it -- your customers, your team, your buyers, your investors -- and all of those people want to help. And you should let them, as you don't always know better than them. You had an idea you decided to pursue. Bravo. Now if you actually want it to go anywhere, figure out how to not become a hunched, hideous Gollum.