I Left a Job at Google to Start My Own Company -- Here's How I Made the Transition
The transition from 9-to-5 to startup is a difficult task. You'll sacrifice a steady paycheck and health benefits for sleepless nights and a high failure rate. Your family, friends and colleagues will meet your already high blood pressure with skepticism about whether your business is revolutionary and if it's all worth it.
I experienced this firsthand when I chose to leave an enviable position at Google Ventures (GV) -- the company's venture capital arm -- to start Grove, a startup dedicated to making financial planning accessible and affordable. I had spent four years investing in early stage startups, and now I wanted to get on the other side of the table. Although I had been on the founding team of other companies, I had never been a founder or CEO myself.
While I was constantly learning new things at GV, it eventually became time for me to follow my passion and dreams. Luckily, I was a member of GV's entrepreneur-in-residence program, which provided me with some of the comforts of a full-time job as I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey. Still, my stress and anxiety were at an all-time high. Earlier in my career, I had been pushed into launching new organizations because I'd been laid off or I joined a founding team where someone else was the CEO and face of the company, so the risk was relatively lower. As the CEO and face of Grove, failure could have a major impact on my reputation that I had built for most of my career. I knew that I would need to figure out a plan for how to manage all this responsibility
Throughout the process of launching Grove, I've learned that managing stress, fear and anxiety is a hurdle that can be overcome with a plan of action. Here are four key stress management tools for those that are leaving their employer to start their own business:
Build a professional support network.
Networking is critical to your success. With the internet and mobile apps, it's easier than ever to find local meetups and professional events to attend. Taking the time to meet others in your line of business and the general startup community can provide answers to questions that you couldn't find elsewhere and even lead to an untapped source of new business.
It's also crucial to develop deeper connections than just a first meeting. I find that this is most important when meeting other founders, because it takes a few meetings to get under the facade and start talking about the real struggles we all face on our entrepreneurial journey. Taking this extra step has helped me to form relationships with others who can offer sound advice on how to make my day-to-day less stressful.
Find a coach or mentor.
Whether you have run several companies or are new to the startup world, there is no shame in hiring a coach or mentor. This became clear to me watching this year's Olympics -- I saw that even the best athletes in the world still needed a coach to perfect their craft and compete on the biggest stage. Founders are no different and should have someone onboard who helps them to make the tough decisions.
I continue to work with my CEO coach to help with the most stressful aspects of running a business. Whether it's interpersonal issues with my team, or major strategic decisions about the business, he's there to help me check my blind spots and take time to think through all perspectives. Accepting that you don't know everything and reaching out for help is tough, but necessary, for your personal health and long-term success.
Establish personal boundaries.
Allowing time for yourself to be with your family is vital. You're not a machine and can't let go of the things in life that you need to be happy and human. The end goal is to be happy with the work that you're doing daily. I love adventuring around the Bay Area for the latest off-the-beaten path restaurants with my wife, and if I had to give that up because I couldn't step away from work, I'd be depressed.
If you like to travel, take the occasional trip with a family or friend to recharge your batteries. Or, try to indulge in fun activities like attending a sporting event or cooking class. The trick is to get into a routine at the beginning so that you set good habits moving forward.
Don't stress over launch.
Launching a startup doesn't stop on launch day. As your business grows, you'll continue to bring new products or services to the market and reach new customers. Evolution will be a continuous process for your company.
Removing internal pressure around launch day allows you to free your mind and focus. Rather than fixating on the problems of tomorrow, you can strategically plan for what's to come in the next six-to-nine months. Recognizing early on that you'll need to work every day to hunt for investors, hire new employees and establish a management team, can help to take the burden off later on.
At Google Ventures, I found that the companies that I enjoyed investing in and had the most success, were those that were passionate about their mission. This helped to reinforce my mindset that you shouldn't start a company because you think that it's a cool idea. Rather, you should do so when you have white-hot passion for what your company stands for and the value that it brings to the market. This belief helps your day-to-day to become less like a job, which is arguably the best stress reliever of all.