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3 Reasons Founders Need to Stop Trying So Hard When founders are overworked, their employees suffer.

By AJ Agrawal Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


As a founder, it's hard to stop working. There are a million things to do on your list, and you never have time to get to all of them. On top of this, you're constantly dealing with a lack of resources. You need more sales people, more funding and more time. To make up for this, it's natural to think you must work yourself to death.

While this is the mentality many startup founders have, this way of thinking does more harm than good. At first, this may seem counterintuitive. Founders often think that to have the best results, they must work harder. In reality, much more is accomplished by working smarter. On top of this, the best leaders do not get the best results from their team members by overworking them. To prove this out, I've highlighted three consequences of overworked founders. Take these in mind before you adopt the 120-hour workweek.

Related: Is Your Boss Pushing You to Your Limit? It's Because He Cares.

1. Employees feel uncomfortable.

In the early days, it's tough not to work 24/7 because passion pushes you through, and you can get away with overworking yourself and your co-founders. But over time, you understand that starting a company is a lot like dating. At first it's all butterflies and sunshine but after awhile that feeling wears off. When this happens and your company grows, that same workaholic mentality will start to make everyone feel uncomfortable.

One of the greatest reasons for this is that people want to have a life outside of work. It's hard to see that as a founder but employees just don't have the same kind of motivation as you. And when you try working 16-hour days in the office, your employees will begin to feel they must do the same thing. This leads them to work when they don't want to and can lead to them being unproductive. When in reality, having your people living balances lives leads to greater happiness and output.

Related: The Many Logical Reasons to Lead With Your Gut Instinct

2. You lose focus on what's essential.

If you look at successful startups, they can usually attribute to one or two giant events that ignited their path to success. At any given time, there typically is only one thing your company should be dedicating its time on. By saying no to everything else, it unites your organization behind one purpose and puts everyone on the same page.

When you try to do everything at once, you and your entire team lose focus. You start spending time on things that don't matter, and your time becomes wasted. The idea that hours dedicated are synonymous with success starts rotting your brain. And when you don't see the results from your long hours, you get frustrated and begin working harder. The cycle repeats itself, until you finally either give up or change your ways.

3. You lose the human element of leadership.

Making your employees smile and having them love their work is hard to gauge. A data scientist can't get those numbers for you, and your board is not going to judge you by happiness levels. But to build a great organization, having a team that loves their work and is loyal to you is crucial for success.

When you judge people simply on hours put in, you start to lose touch on knowing your team members as people. Who's going through what this week? Is so and so happy with their current project? These are questions you should be asking yourself before assuming someone is lazy. I'd rather have someone work 20 hours a week and be in love with his or her work, then work 80 hours and hate every second of it.

Related: 6 Things Successful Leaders Do Differently

AJ Agrawal

Founder of Verma Media

AJ Agrawal is the founder of Verma Media, a marketing agency that focuses on emerging tech, like blockchain and AI, and on cannabis companies.

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