Happiness is hard without a plan

TRC 026: Happiness is hard without a plan

founder well being planning Jan 04, 2024

Read time: 5 mins

I have been running my own businesses for over 20 years now.

This newsletter is called THE ROLLERCOASTER because of all the ups and downs I have experienced, along with my co-founders, on that journey.

There have been weeks where I started on a Monday thinking that it was possible we would take over the world (in our own small way), only to have it feel like it was falling in around our ears by the time I got home on Friday.

I have seen this hundreds of times now with friends and people I have mentored who are going on their own journey of building a business.

You definitely need luck at times to achieve success, and it is quite often the case that that the bad times seem to come out of nowhere.

We all know that there will be good and bad, but are there things that you can do the ‘smooth the curves’?

To have the lows not feel quite so low, whilst remembering to keep our humility when things are going well?

Here are a few things that I have learned and observed that might help.


Don’t forget to plan

Lots of founders I speak to don’t have an answer when asked ‘What does success look like?’.

Make sure you know, and then break this down into goals that cover a shorter time span.

And don’t be too rigid.

Whilst having a plan is essential, be prepared to adapt.

Markets change change constantly so it’s best to expect things to move, and have a systematic process for confronting change when it arises.

Even if it’s just getting a few folk in a room with a pre-planned agenda.


Don’t leave the plan alone

Once you have a plan, have monthly or quarterly reviews to assess your progress towards your goals - at the very least take a look at what you consider to be your key metrics and your finances.

If something isn’t working, don’t hesitate to pivot.

I see a lot of founders stick their head in the sand for too long and then suffer the additional stress of not having spotted something that has become a big problem when it could have been easily solved when it was still a small one.


Celebrate success

It can be tempting to just move on to the next milestone or thing on the to-do list, but finding time to recognise achievements can really help you (and particularly your team) remain positive when the chips are down.

If you always move on without recognising progress, it can make you feel like good things never happen.

Also remind yourself why you started.

Purpose, or the change in the world you are aiming for, can help make short term setbacks seem just that, rather than catastrophes.


Keep a tight handle on your finances

If you always sail close to the financial wind, with no contingency for unexpected events, you are always courting disaster.

Make sure you allocate funds for unforeseen circumstances.

Likewise, always keep an eye on the costs - have a clear eye on every element of spend and why it is there.

It’s amazing how small elements of unnecessary spend can add up over time.

A clear eye on cashflow and runway is one of the best ways to keep the stress levels low.


It can’t be just about work

It’s not easy amongst the cut and thrust of getting a business off the ground, but you have to prioritise your health.

Without it, you can’t run a business.

In the long run, working to burn out will kill your productivity anyway.

Prioritise doing something consistently - even if it’s just getting off the bus a couple of stops early.

Make sure you encourage this in your teams too.


Prepare for Challenges

Make a simple list of potential risks and have a mitigation plan in place.

Having a meeting agenda for how you tackle new challenges that help you arrive at an action plan about how to tackle them, seems simple, but it’s amazing what difference it can make in a crisis.

It’s better to reach for a plan, than to run around with your ‘hair on fire’.


Build your network

Connect with others going through a similar thing - both at a similar stage, and those who have the scars of having done it previously.

It helps to have people on hand who will have both empathy and potential guidance when things get tough.

You never know, somebody might just have seen your exact situation before and be able to help you plot a path out.

This exact thing saved me from making some terrible decisions in a crisis.

You can also be this for others (which will give you a great sense of achievement).


Running a business will always feel like a rollercoaster.

Sharp turns everywhere with lots of highs and lows.

That’s normal.

But it’s amazing how just a bit of time invested in planning, and investing in your yourself, your team and your network can pay dividends in smoothing out those curves.

It can definitely help you have a happier journey.

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