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Bounce back “like a boss”? How to survive as a Founder or CEO when it gets relentless

By Julia Barber. Platform Director at Renovata & Company.

Is anyone else feeling somewhat weary as we continue to wade through what feels like the treacle of Q2? The nightclub lights are on and everyone is swimming naked, that kind of vibe.

It’s with no small degree of irony and eye-rolling that I’ve looked back on my overboard slash naive optimism of February. Even TechCrunch has started to talk about the effect of the prolonged permacrisis on founder wellbeing and I would say the majority of my network in technology has taken advantage of the recent consecutive bank holidays to have a well-earned lie-down.

Of course, the wild ride of early-stage build and scaleup evolution gives founders more than their fair share of panic-inducing drops and dizzying turns. If you’re running a startup/scaleup the current market conditions might have you feeling like you’re strapped into a particularly terrifying parallel universe.

I’ve spoken to a number of founders recently who are quite understandably ready to escape to a tropical island and not return. Ever.

But fear not — I wanted to throw out some quick and dirty, possibly surprising strategies that shape resilience and can help you survive these sticky times.

Forget the usual clichéd wellness BS: we’re going off the beaten path. (but you can expect the usual Julia levels of positivity for which I will not apologise…)


1. The power of creative constraints

The idea of creative constraints might seem counterintuitive — do we not need all the help support and resource we can get?!

When you dive deeper, you can see how limitation can fuel creativity and innovation — and we are all being asked to do more with less currently. By setting boundaries on available resources, time, or tools, you force your team/your own brain to think differently, stretch the imagination, and come up with inventive solutions that you would not have considered otherwise.

In essence, constraints can encourage colouring outside the lines in a way that supercharges progress. Try it. You might be surprised.


2. Become a master of disguise

I recently got into The Alter Ego Effect and loved it.

Wearing a different metaphorical t-shirt/hat can help you navigate different facets of your personality, allowing you to get through tough situations with a different access route to creativity and confidence.*

Need to see round corners on the product roadmap? Channel your inner Jedi Master.

Facing an intimidating board review? Embody the charm of Tony Stark.

Not dealing well with the prospect of growth flatlining? Imagine a Mary Poppins-esque level of calm and tranquillity.

*Just remember to return to your true self when the workday ends yeah? 🙂

3. Cultivate radical transparency

Being open about the mountain you’re trying to climb creates a supportive and resilient environment — and there really is no point in pretending it’s all sunshine and rainbows right now.

Share your experiences with other founders, peers, leaders, and subject matter experts and if you don’t already consider offering ‘Open Heart Surgery’ or equivalent (eg. office hours with extra empathy) within your team to discuss challenges and brainstorm collectively.

This level of candour can ignite unity and fuel a collective drive to conquer the world with total determination — the quality Sam Altman told us recently is essential for winning at entrepreneurship.

4. Develop rites & rituals

Sounds woo-woo right? But shared experiences, rooted in meaning and intention, can serve as anchors that keep your team grounded when things feel rocky.

By incorporating rituals that celebrate victories, acknowledge progress, or reinforce your team’s values, you can 💯 create a sense of belonging and shared purpose.

This, in turn, reinforces resolve, enabling everyone to benefit from a virtuous circle.

And you know what, a ritual could be as simple as taking a break for tea and a biscuit. According to the research behind the Mcvities campaign, 70% of overworked employees take less than 15 minutes worth of breaks a day.

Between WFH and the capital crunch, taking anything like a decent break has started to become stigmatised again — and for our collective sanity, this needs to stop immediately.

5. Embrace “Anti-Goals”

Become a productivity rebel.

Instead of focusing solely on what you want to achieve, consider identifying “anti-goals” — outcomes you want to avoid. This reverse approach can help you spot potential pitfalls and thus address them, ultimately building your business’ resilience by helping you anticipate and navigate challenges more effectively.

Equally, you might want a whole different take on how to Get Stuff Done which is where I’d throw Oliver Buerkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks into the mix — he offers an entirely different way of looking at your to-do list and prioritising more ruthlessly than ever before.

Look, I think we all know there is no magic bullet, and that this too shall pass etc.

But there is no point in coming into better times if the stewards of our most innovative businesses are in crisis from a health and well-being point of view.

As a wise man once said: ‘100% of people who didn’t win the lottery— didn’t buy a ticket”

And with that, I’m off to the corner shop to pick some numbers 🙂