(Editor’s note: Christopher Parks is CEO and founder of change:healthcare. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
Starting a company is a marathon – and it takes not just business-savvy but unyielding perseverance to make it through the tough times. The emotional roller coaster can take a toll on anyone, and no book in the world can tell you exactly what to expect. The best business school training and real-world experience helps, but every potential CEO needs to first assess whether they have the required mental toughness.
This short quiz will reveal if you have the emotional skills required to make it through the ups and downs of launching a new company.
True or False: My heart is 110% behind my head. – Thinking of an idea and starting a company is the easiest part of the journey. About two years into starting change:healthcare, we had already significantly grown the team, overcome several challenges, evolved (yeah… pivoted) the business model and refocused our efforts away from individuals to the businesses that employed multitudes of individuals.
I was drained from the combination of customer progress and team growing pains. More than drained, I was devoid of any ability to conjure up the willingness to keep fighting this start-up war. I tossed and turned, then I remembered I wasn’t starting a company because it was cool. Nor was I doing so for the fame or ego boost. I started this journey because of a promise – to myself and my late mother – that couldn’t be broken.
True or False: I can bend to changes and not break. – That first world changing, moneymaking idea? It’s wrong. Almost no one gets it “right” from the start. Reality rarely matches initial strategies.
Sometimes, to arrive at a solution to a problem, you don’t need to look for a different answer, but rather be flexible enough mentally to start asking different questions.
Share the resulting realization with a new Board of Directors who have just invested a lot of money in your current solution can be daunting, but if you’re certain it’s the right decision to adjust focus, you need to stand your ground. That initial realization and willingness to remain flexible in your problem-solving ideas can keep you from disappearing from the face of an evolving competitive market.
True or False: I do not let my ego get in the way of asking for help. – Many non-entrepreneurs delude themselves into believing that self-confidence should translate into an over-bearing ego. In reality, most entrepreneurs and leaders actually suffer mental anguish. They are so afraid of failure or unending compromise that they sabotage themselves into mediocrity or attempt to overcompensate in other areas.
The reality is that you’re not number one on other peoples’ priority lists. No matter how much you plan, everything will be twice as complicated. The people who act quickly, remain persistent and patient, and are not afraid to make a request, reach the long-term goals needed for success.
When I hit roadblocks, I tried to instill my team with a sense of self-confidence by publicly acknowledging the limits of what you know, openly seeking the opportunity to learn what you don’t and asking for the rest. If we hadn’t done this, our business would have failed.
If you answered false to any of the three questions above, I’d take a hard look at your ability to persevere as a start-up CEO. You can have all the financial backing, Ivy League education and shiny “I’m the Boss” coffee mugs in the world, but it may not amount to anything without the emotional IQ to support the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.