The Toll of Everyone Around a Founder

"Founders aren't the only people paying the price of building a startup. What about all of us who surround them, like spouses, kids, and friends? While those same Founders are heads down trying to build something they believe in, the rest of us are just left with a fraction of who we used to know."

May 24th, 2023   |    By: Wil Schroter    |    Tags: Emotional Support

We all know how much of a toll being a Founder takes on us, but what about everyone around us?

It'd be nice to think that our journey, and the personal hell that is trying to be a Founder overall is limited to just our own world, the reality is our world radiates out to everyone around us. Our long hours, intense stress, and sometimes total failure doesn't just blow up our world, it has a strong ripple effect on everyone around us.

Startups Aren't Exactly "Marriage Enhancers"

If you ever want to truly test your marriage (or any relationship for that matter), try running it through the grueling gauntlet that is a startup company. While it's hard enough to build a strong relationship, mixing in a giant dose of anxiety and uncertainty does not help — at all.

Our spouses always bear the brunt of that transformation in us, from the raging optimism we first displayed to the soul-crushing depression of what it means to trudge through a startup at times. While we get the benefit of "seeing the future" of what our startup might be, our spouses only get to see the shell of a human they once knew.

All of that anxiety that we build up from our own uncertainty easily spills over to debates and conflicts with our loved ones. While they want to help, they can also become the unwitting punching bags of our own emotions and frustrations. It'd be silly to think that all of the emotions that our startup creates simply go away when the day is done.

Our Children Can get Replaced by Our Startup

Unlike a more normal "9 to 5" where we can clock in and clock out, our startup doesn't really allow us to just turn it all off at any point. There's always 10x more to do than there are hours in the day, and the result of that is always us just working more hours to make up for it.

When we're single, or we don't have kids, those hours are mostly our own, so there's often very little cost to anyone else for that extra time spent. But when all of our hours are consumed at the expense of spending time with our kids, the stakes go up exponentially.

Every hour that gets consumed by our startups is an hour they don't get with their parent. That's an hour of their childhood that we don't get back. And let's be honest, it's typically not "a few hours," it's what can amount to years in the most extreme case. Those are years where we'll regret not having time with our kids, but it's the only childhood window they will ever have, and it'll be remembered with less of us.

Friendships, What Friendships?

Some of us don't have marriages or kids to worry about, but we still have friendships... right? Do you remember having friends, those people you used to hang out with on a regular basis, without having to schedule a time to see them? Those people who you could just talk to about nonsense because it was fun, not because it was an executive summary of your work life.

Our friends still love us (maybe), but they really don't get the fun version of us anymore, do they? Now what's left is the friend that never has time to get together, that can never be present when we're together and is clearly struggling in life. It's probably safe to say none of our existing friendships would have existed if we met those same people today (probably because we would have never left the house to begin with!)

We're still cashing the checks of goodwill with our friends that we built up over many years, but more importantly, we're not making any more deposits with them. The person they used to know is gone for now, and frankly, we're probably lucky that they are still willing to talk to us at all.

Compounding Effects

All of these costs compound over time. The less time we spend with the people around us, and the less of ourselves we have left to invest in them, the bigger the toll becomes to have us in their lives. As Founders, we need to step back and take stock of how much everyone around us is investing in the shell of who we used to be to show them that we're still that person and that we're a good return on their investment.

In Case You Missed It

What If The Founder's Personality Is A Startups Liability? During the early days of my first startup, I stumbled upon a huge liability that was killing us quickly — me.

The Cost of Toxic Employees (podcast) We all know the value of having a star player on our team. But what about the opposite? Wil and Ryan discuss how to identify and handle toxic teammates before their impact spreads across the organization.

Startup Culture is a Reflection of the Founder Everything you do has implications and if you let instigators of negativity be, you’re allowing a nasty culture to spread.

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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