The One Skill Founders Need to Master to Run a Business
Many years ago (and in a previous venture) my co-founder, Vu Tran, and I decided that we could turn our hobby of building websites into a business. We were in our teens and still in high school, and didn’t really have a network to draw on to find customers so we resorted to going door to door.
After visiting many retailers and offices we were down to the last business—a hair salon. With no interest to speak of it would have been easy enough to call it a day and give up. But we persevered and it turned out to be the right decision. The hair salon owner overheard his receptionist turning us away and intervened, saying yes he’d give us a go. That first customer led to more and eventually we could credit at least 300 customers thereafter to that first green light.
The highs and lows
Running a business is like a roller-coaster ride where you can go from euphoria to thinking the world is falling apart, and then back to euphoria again—all in a span of a single day. This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s the reality that many people face when running a company.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ability to manage the highs and lows is a key skill that founders need to master.
When we consider the ways in which we deal with the many challenges we experience in business, the terms mental toughness and resilience often come to mind. But how do they differ and do they even matter? To me, mental toughness is our ability to persevere, deal with and overcome challenges as we face them. Resilience is our ability to not only overcome but bounce back from adversity. Both are incredibly important but as entrepreneurs we often have an instinctive ability to rely heavily on mental toughness, calling on our ability to solve or “hack” any problem we encounter with little investment in building resilience.
Live in present
From the US Navy Seals to tech firms like Google, many organizations have used mindfulness practices to build resilience and develop greater capability within their leaders and teams. But beyond meditation and deep breathing, one of the key concepts around mindfulness is the idea to focus on the present. Too often we find ourselves focusing, even obsessing, about the past or the future with little regard to the present. With this in mind, it’s important that as entrepreneurs we take the time to enjoy the journey.
A key part of enjoying the journey is to be on the journey with people that you enjoy working with. Our founding team, and the team that we’ve built since, are a key reason we enjoy turning up for work every day. Coupled with an important and fulfilling mission and purpose, this creates a more sustainable environment.
Life as a founder is predictably unpredictable, and while that is clichéd, it’s also very much a reality. Being able to engage with the challenges and not be overwhelmed by the inevitable setbacks is a key skill.
GO1 co-founder Vu Tran contributed to this column.