July 2nd, 2021 | By: Wil Schroter
The worst time to get tired in a race is at the end.
Now, imagine we've just run a marathon (it's called a startup) and at the very end of that marathon is the finish line (it's called an exit), but we're too tired to make it across. Can you imagine a worse time to be out of energy than the moment where we're just about to win the race?
Yet many Founders, by the time we get to our most important milestone (the sale), just have nothing left. So we capitulate. We agree to silly terms, or unrealistic expectations, not because we think it's a good deal, but because we just want to be done with any deal. We're incredibly vulnerable, and that's incredibly dangerous.
Look, I get it. By the time we're teeing up to sell, we're just absolutely crushed at every possible level. Our bodies, minds, finances, relationships (I can go on) simply can't endure another day of dragging this thing forward. The idea of selling and handing over the reins to someone else feels like Shangri-La.
In our minds, the most important thing is just being done with it. But that's the mistake. That's the equivalent of running a marathon and deciding 100 feet from the finish line that we're done. If anything, that last 100 feet should be the moment we suck it up, no matter what, and put more energy into that very moment than we've put into anything. (Cue "St. Elmo's Fire" theme song).
That's because the final moment when we're negotiating and closing is the reflection of every single sacrifice we've made along the way. We've spent years with sleepless nights and empty bank accounts. Are we really saying that in the few months it will take to close this thing, we can't possibly muster the energy to do it right?
It's not just that everything we built has led to this, it's that we only get one shot to do this right. It's not like after we sell we're also going to get a chance to re-negotiate our deal someday. We don't get a year of amazing vacations to think about it and then come back refreshed to do this well. Not at all.
We're going to be negotiating at our most leveraged, most vulnerable state for what will likely be the most important career milestone in our life.
The moment we start thinking "let's just get this over with" we're overlooking that we only get this one shot. We don't want to just get this over with. We want to get this done right with the only opportunity we may ever have to get it done right.
We've spent an entire career in "suck it up mode" to get here, at so many levels. Wherever we have to find the energy to stand up, dust our shoulders off, and keep running — now is the time. Deep breaths, deep breaths.
This moment may not be the last of it either. Beyond the deal, we may be looking at earnouts and other contingencies. All of this requires that next level of energy and commitment to maximize our hard-earned return. We can't let a year of exhaustion erase what feels like a lifetime of contribution.
None of this is fun, BTW. But it's 100% necessary. We've earned this moment, but we also need to be committed to seeing this through to the very end, which in some cases may be spitting distance from where our emotions and energy have been exhausted. This is the most important month (year?) of our lives. Let's not waste it.
We Get Paid For Finishes, Not Starts As Founders, it's important for us to remember that nothing matters until the end goal is reached.
Retiring Early is a Broken Concept Retiring isn't really our end goal, so we shouldn't aspire to it. What we really want is to shape our life the way we want it to be.
Overwhelmed (podcast) Startups are often portrayed as a go big or go home affair, and as Founders, it's easy to get caught up chasing monumental goals and forget about the daily actions that will actually get us there.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, 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.