How Do You Keep Your Mental Peace While Running a Startup
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Running a start-up in the digital age needs an always-on approach. If you miss a beat from the market, the consumers, the Government, or the competitors, there may not be any comeback. In the last decade or so, the Indian economy has witnessed the rise of start-up unicorns like Flipkart, InMobi and PayTM, which inspired many others to join the wagon. However, there is much more beneath the surface. As per the ‘Indian Start-up Ecosystem – Traversing the Maturity Cycle – 2017’ report by Nasscom, a majority of Indian start-ups close down within 1.6 to 1.9 years of inception. Out of these, 55 per cent had received funding and 20 per cent had graduated from incubators and accelerators.
According to a recent CB Insights report that analyses 101 start-ups, 49 per cent failed start-ups, were not actually needed at all. This is followed by a cash crunch and other problems. Whatever be the reasons, one thing is clear. For every shining star in the Indian start-up ecosystem, there are tens of failures which get nobody’s attention. One can only imagine the stress that entrepreneurs face. A recent study by Dr Michael Freeman, an entrepreneur and a clinical professor at UCSF was one of the first academic research that highlighted the correlation between entrepreneurship and mental health issues. Of the 242 entrepreneurs surveyed by him, 49 per cent reported at least one mental health condition. Depression was the number one reported condition (among 30 per cent), followed by ADHD (29 per cent) and anxiety issues (27 per cent). While the study has been done in the USA, it has clear takeaways for India as well. In this context, it is high time that the Indian start-up founders prioritize their health. Here are some changes that the entrepreneurs need to make to their work and lifestyle to manage their stress more effectively.
Restructure and realign: While it is good to have a firm vision and a strategic plan to achieve it, it is important to read the market response in time. If the business decisions do not go as expected, entrepreneurs need to know the point of stop-loss and move on or realign. We have seen examples of multi-million dollar e-commerce giants which came to standstill amid the changing consumer tastes and aggressive competition. On the other hand, Amazon, once an online bookselling platform, is now one of the most valued companies in the world. This could be possible as it kept aligning itself with the changing market trends. This is an important art to learn, especially when the chips are down. Changing is not defeat, it is the way of business. When I got associated with my brand, our goal was to be the best child care provider, well the goal is still the same, but we have realigned, restructured our approach, systems and process almost by 180 degrees. Most of the assumptions and variables will be off when you plan, don't worry if your goals are clear, re-aligning your business to market conditions and restructure where necessary and you will be successful.
Zoom Out, to Zoom In: Once an entrepreneur lands up in the zone of mental illness, it is hard to explain this to a client, an investor, an analyst, and at times, even to a family member. The best way to recover is to zoom out of the stress zone for short while and get an outsider’s perspective. When you are too much involved in something, you understand the granular details but run the risk of missing the larger picture. The zoom out, zoom in approach helps in getting inspiration from your environment. Consider travelling to a new city, learning a new dance move, a new song, or a new piece of art, anything that disconnects you from your day to day life, will help you get back to work with renewed energy. If you find me croaking my lungs out at a karaoke, please note, it’s one my biggest stress buster. Gone are the days when I could disappear in the hills for a few days on my motorbike. So find your soul food and see how much difference it will make to your business as well as your mental well being.
Socialize: In the rush of meeting business goals, tackling competition, pleasing investors, and monitoring operations, entrepreneurs often cut off from friends, family, and peer group. Face to face meetings is often replaced by Facebook and other technology platforms. It is time we go back to the original methods of socializing. Collect the positive vibes and good wishes from those you love and those who love you. This also helps in managing the unnecessary social expectations and peer pressure. Being married, my wife and children are my biggest support system, long dinners on weekend, going for animated movies is just the sort of break in need to back strong on Monday. If you are single, go out meet your friends share your stories, but beware don't party as means to distract yourself.
Raise Hand for Help: Like anyone else, entrepreneurs also are not comfortable with the idea of acknowledging the mental health issues and reaching out for expert help. As a result, it is often too late before the situation is diagnosed and treated. When you embark on the entrepreneurial journey, be ready for the mental ups and downs and connect with a psychological expert, before it is a pressure cooker situation. I personally use transcendental meditation as my gateway to clarity, I don't recommend it to everyone, but it has helped me a lot. Find a professional either teacher or mental help expert, but address it before it is too late.