Founders, Not All Problems Are Apocalyptic

"I'm getting buried with problems at my startup, and it's stressing me out. Customers are frustrated, my staff is unhappy, and our product is taking forever to ship. Is there a point where I finally solve all of this, and this gets way easier?"

July 19th, 2023   |    By: Wil Schroter    |    Tags: Emotional Support

There are very few problems at a startup worth actually stressing about — but that doesn't keep us from burning ourselves out about them.

Startups are nothing but problems. Everything about this epic shit show that we've created is a problem. We're building a company that has never existed, in a market we invented, with a team that got here 5 minutes ago. What about that would breed anything but problems?

Even if we can agree that the fire hose of problems will never be turned off, we can at least understand how to treat those problems differently, separating the ones that may end us from the ones that are "just another day at the office." If we can't, we will crush ourselves with stress and anxiety.

Problems vs. Apocalypse

First off, we really need to understand how to calibrate between "yet another problem" with our startup and an "extinction-level event." Early on, there were a lot of problems that could absolutely make or break our startup. If a major customer bails, we lose a key employee, or our servers go down — we could go out of business.

Those are apocalyptic problems to be sure. Those should keep us up at night and we're going to be insanely stressed out about them. The thing is, most of our problems aren't those problems (thankfully!)

Anything that's not an apocalypse is frankly "just a problem." That's not to minimize problems, it's to categorize them so we can apply the appropriate amount of attention (stress) to them. Frankly, there aren't that many truly apocalyptic problems, and the longer we run our startups, the fewer of them there actually are, because we tend to become more stable over time.

Burning Too Many Stress Cycles

If we treat every problem like the apocalypse, we're going to run ourselves into the ground. And let's face it — we're not exactly bursting with energy to begin with. Building a startup is a very long marathon, so learning to pace ourselves versus burning out at every sign of an issue, is critically important.

If we apply the same level of stress every time an employee complains, or someone says something negative on social media, or every time someone misses a deadline - we're going to have a very short-lived career.

We need those stress cycles for the big problems. When shit hits the fan, we're going to need all of that energy to solve those problems and go into overtime. Remember too, that we're not just burning out our own cycles, we're burning out everyone around us that we're putting on high alert all of the time. It's very costly to run in high alert mode nonstop, especially if we don't have to.

The Problems Never Stop, They Change

If our thought is that we need to solve all of these problems now so that we "won't have any problems anymore" — we're in for a rude awakening. There will always be problems. The only thing that will change is the number of people that have them (more headcount) and the number of zeros behind the cost.

When I built my first ad agency, we had $1,000 per month of payroll (yes, not a typo). Within 7 years we had $10,000,000 per month of payroll (also, not a typo). The issues were almost identical, we just had way more zeros behind them. No matter how well we did, our problems of selling new clients, keeping staff happy, maintaining culture, and trying to eke out a profit were identical in nature.

What did happen over time is that our problems came with more resources (money, people) to solve them. But there will always be angry customers, there will always be unsatisfied team members, and there will always be that one feature that didn't get shipped on time. Those are the constants in our startups, and they will never go away no matter how much we stress about them.

In Case You Missed It

Even in Failure, Founders Deserve True Respect (pocast) When a business fails, Founders often wallow over how people react and what they can say about the situation. The adverse reactions don’t matter. What should matter is who stays to help pull you out of the rubble.

How I Harness My Insane Startup Anxiety There are two types of Founders: those that admit they are wracked with anxiety, and those that are lying about it. We’re all going to deal with it for the rest of our lives — so why not use it as a superpower, instead of reacting like it’s kryptonite?

Who's Qualified To Be A Founder? It turns out; anyone can become a Founder. Having the idea and vision for your Startup is easy, but building a business out of nothing, dealing with potential issues and challenges, and getting started aren’t as easy.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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