The Long Game is Hard
I started writing this post when I was at an emotional low. A few weeks ago, one of our old founder friends came to visit us at our new office. I enjoy talking to founders because there's an understanding of the entrepreneurial struggle and a kinship because of it. Our friend stopped working on his startup a few months ago, and we knew he was grieving, but also job searching. As we were chatting, he received an email from a large public tech company offering him a job with a sweet salary and stock options.
I was really happy for him because we knew he needed to pay his bills after years of bootstrapping. Then, the role he got seemed really cool given the reputation of his new employer.
Yet a part of me became envious. I thought, "Geez, it would be so nice to not worry about my next paycheck." And, "Damn, they are paying him pretty good." Since starting Shapetrace for the second time in Feb 2018, we've been fortunate to have consulting and development work starting. We try to pay our team decently, BUT since we're at the beginning of this second business, the contract cycles are not stable and so the pay schedules aren't either, which means they are earning less than they could be. Given our specialty in computer vision, augmented reality, and our entry into machine learning, we could command really high salaries that are 153% above the average. They could all leave. Kudos to the team for believing in the vision and for sticking around. Kudos to them for taking on the risk too. Kudos to them for believing in me. Yet it is hard for me personally where some months I am earning less than the minimum wage and my team doesn't get their steady paycheck.
So then I question if it's all worth it this second time around. I question whether I want to cause more struggle with my wife and family because they've already sacrificed a lot, and I know patience has limits. My wife has ambition too, and I wonder if I am a roadblock on her own path to success. Then, I question whether I am any smarter this time around to lead a team of people who believe in me. They seem to believe in me, but do I believe in me?
I am in business to make a lot of money because money gives me options. I want to afford my daughter a language class, a soccer camp or some music lessons so that she has options in her life. I want my wife to have options to pursue her own personal ambitions instead of feeling like she's sacrificing for mine. I want every single person in the company to be wealthy so that they can provide options for themselves and their families. I want the company to have significant resources so that we can pursue different options to fulfill our collective vision. Then we all can share our wealth to give our communities more options. But right now, I don't have many options.
So it often crosses my mind that I should just quit and get a job. I'm pretty sure I could get a high salary too. Getting a job would be a great thing if I found the right team in a company with a vision that I believed in. I'd be happy with the position.
But then the universe has a funny way of sending reminders that I am damn lucky to be given the chance to be an entrepreneur: not many people get the opportunity, and I've been given two.
For one, we've only just started five months ago. We're fortunate that we're already making money, paycheque amounts are increasing, and sales are starting to close. Things are still unstable, but this is a far cry from our first startup, which didn't focus on immediate cashflow. Perhaps I'm a tad smarter to build a REAL business and not just amazing tech and a business model. Perhaps, I just need to be more patient?
Secondly, since I can actually pay myself now (the last four years were basically nothing), it is starting to relieve my wife from some of the financial burden she's taken on as the primary breadwinner of our family. Yes, I am lucky again to have my wife support my lifestyle financially and emotionally, and not that many people get this either.
Finally, I expressed my seeds of doubt to the team, and individually and collectively they assured me that they believed in the company and in me. They told me that I have nothing to worry about because we already had the right team in a company with a vision we all believed in.
Wow. They are amazing. I am so lucky.
Well, to honour them I have to give it my best and to look out for them because that's what they trust in me to do. It looks like we're in this for the long game.