Founder Glow Up: With All Your Sh*t, You’re Still The Best CEO
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Brutal truth: Despite your inexperience, your internal doubts, your secret screw-ups, and your raw edges. Despite the fact that you’re probably a pretty sh*t CEO by traditional standards, you’re likely still the best CEO for your StartUp.
Book: “Zero To One” by Peter Thiel – A blueprint for innovators to build the future from scratch.
Last week: The Power Of Being Relentless
Your inexperience isn’t a liability, it’s a catalyst. Founder-led startups have 2.2x higher median returns & 90% of public SaaS companies are still led by their founders. Go traditional “time to be serious” CEO too early, and watch your startup sink into mediocrity. You are the “magic” that is essential to go from nothing to something. While you might not be a forever CEO, until your startup hits significant milestones — normally Series C or $50m ARR — you likely remain the right choice.
The measurement for your success (right now)? Happy, paying customers. Happy Customers Solve Everything. Prioritize winning your customers loyalty; the rest will follow.
Perhaps a bit offensive; but everyone knows about your shortcomings. You have no leadership experience, no sales methodologies or negotiation skills, no product expertise, no deep financial acumen, no experience in scaling a startup, no HR leadership or people management skills. Sure, it’s likely you have one of these, but you are literally jumping off a cliff and assembling the plane on the way down. No amount of podcasts can magically transform you into the person you think you need to be.
So why are you the best CEO? How can the person who’s fumbling, stumbling and learning on the go be the best person to lead? Simple. You’re the heart and soul of your startup. You know who your customers are, where your product needs to be, the holes in your strategy, the long game, and have exactly the right amount of impatience. You have a deep understanding of your where you came from and where you are going, even if you struggle to articulate it.
You can sell, market, and build like no one else, because YOU are your startup. You carry the “oh f*ck, she might actually be able pull this off” vibe, and have the ability to make decisions with the bravado of someone who might just be right!
No one is buying into you today; they’re buying into the future you’re promising.
The most famous one of all. Steve Jobs. Kicked out, called a lunatic, but yet, when Apple needed saving, they brought back that very same lunatic, because he was THEIR lunatic. He had the vision and the bravado an outside CEO could never manifest, not because he was perfect, but because he had the raw, relentless drive to lead the company to greatness. You might just be your startup’s lunatic.
You are exactly where you need to be right now. However… Your Day Of Reckoning is waiting for you.
This isn’t a fun story about imposter syndrome and self-doubters seeking validation. You feel like a phony because you kind of are one. So let’s do a 180 on the self-deprecation or negativity and focus on building the self-confidence that you’re competent and deserving of success because you put in the work, you show up, you execute?
After year one or a mega milestone, you’re expected to transform from novice to leader, one capable of the long haul, one that requires more than passion. It’s beyond insane, a single year to compensate for a lifetime of inexperience, one year to learn to lead, build, hire, fail, and, most critically, adapt. One year to evolve from an ambitious dreamer into the battle-hardened leader your startup needs. One year to leave behind the excuses. One year to just get on with it, prove you deserve it, and embrace your founder glow up.
Year one is trial by fire. A year of reckoning and hard truths, but also, it has to be the year that molds you into the leader your company needs. After the first year, all the inexperience that your investors, employees, stakeholders, customers, and friends tolerated expires.
One year. That’s the timeline you’ve got to step up from being an idealist with a dream to the battle-hardened leader your team needs. The learning curve is steep, and the fall hard. That’s okay. It’s necessary.
In this metamorphosis, something magical happens. You become a different human. You move from being the best CEO because it’s your startup to being the best CEO because of your ability to drive growth. Most importantly, at this point, you have finally learned how to actually listen and realized that your job is not to be right, it’s to make rapid decisions.
What separates you? You’ve got a sprinkle of that magic pixie dust, and everyone knows it.
So, a lot of text to say…. you’re still the best CEO for your startup, even with all your sh*t, you’re what your startup needs. Not because you’re perfect but because you’re willing and crazy enough to make it happen. Embrace this.
Here is to your founder glow up.