I spent the first twenty years of my work life as an investment banker. At one point, I ran a large global team of salespeople and traders. I had nearly one hundred people in my team and was responsible for a $250MM revenue business. It was stressful for sure. Management was pushing me for more growth, and we took large trading positions in volatile markets. However, I was able to manage that stress much better than the stress that came later when I was a founder. Maybe it was the fact that I was just an employee and not an owner, or maybe it was that ultimately I was a tiny part of a massive global bank so my PNL was a drop in a huge ocean. Either way, that job didn’t really stress me out much.
I found stress when I ran my first startup, a FinTech enabled lender. Wow, was that a change. I put a good chunk of my own money into the operating expenses of the business, and I also co-invested in every freaking loan we made. When we started, I ran the day-to-day underwriting for the business, so I evaluated each loan and oversaw all the details. That I could handle, it was on me. We had some success and I started to hire people to help with the process. At the big banks, I was a strong manager. I never had trouble delegating responsibility, but my goodness those first few hires managed to screw things up in all sorts of creative ways. Mostly it was just sloppy work, but it led to mistakes in the underwriting process and wrong loan decisions. It also led to problems with customers and payment processing.
All of it turned my stress level to a 10, maybe beyond! I gotta admit that I wasn’t really fun to be around then. I snapped at the junior people a lot. They deserved to get slammed for the poor work product, but in hindsight I wish I had done it differently. When I worked on big investment banking trading floors, that was the way we managed people. It worked because everyone was super smart and very well paid. But that style did not play in a ten-person startup, and probably today’s generation is cut different than the prior one. Either way, the stress of running a startup got to me and I’m not proud of the way I handled it. My advice to you is keep an eye on your own stress levels, and find more productive ways to manage the inevitable tough times that will come from running a startup.
Thanks for reading today’s post, I hope this helps you manage your stress levels in your own startup experience.