Start-up’s….Like Wiring a House With The Power On…and getting zapped

The start-up phase is often one of the most difficult phases for entrepreneur as they often try to gain market knowledge while trying to meet sales goals. You know you should gather market data, but you often have limited cash, you are the chief cook and bottle washer, and you need to make sales to fund your future growth.

Start-up leaders need a strong emotional intelligence as many days you feel like you are; wiring a house with the power on and you keep getting emotionally zapped.


A number of years ago my wife was redesigning our upstairs bathroom and asked I change the electrical outlets from a cream color to a solid white. So we turned the lights on in the bathroom and I went to the fuse box and flipped switches until the bathroom light went out. I started to remove the outlet and saw a small spark. I thought to myself…”That’s odd as I know the electric power was off…” (My perceived truth) so I continued removing the old outlet. Zap! Next thing I knew I received a shock that sent me up against the wall and I fell into the bathtub. I latter found a new truth…the lights were on a separate circuit than the outlets so I was trying to change the outlet with the power on.

One of the most exhilarating as well as frustrating things you can do is launch a start-up company. Like I discussed in a previous post you feel like a plate spinner with more to-do’s than hours in a day. I go on to discuss how we can’t let the most important plates drop. I have discussed in earlier blogs how 2/3 of start-ups fail within 18 months. The main reasons we are all aware of for start-up failure include;

  • run out of cash
  • lack of a market driven plan
  • if you have a plan, your sales expectation is too high, too soon
  • if you have a plan, you have an unrealistic understanding of the buying process and cycle
  • trying to sell the need for a product you launched because you could and not because you should
  • market is not large enough
  • customers do not want to pay to solve the problem you solve
  • stress


Assuming your product and or service solves an unmet need, and you have a large enough market who are willing to pay you to solve their problem, the real danger for entrepreneurs is getting zapped by stress during the start-up season of your business..

To keep you from getting emotionally zapped from stress during the often hectic start-up phase, there are five key Biblical lessons I learned from a sermon recently.

1. Don’t wear yourself out – build the discipline to determine what is important, urgent, and focus on what is :urgent and important

2. Don’t shut out others – the reality is you can’t do it alone. Now more than ever you need your network, family, and friends

3. Don’t just focus on Negatives – that’s what market losers do. Keep your eyes on the prize and look for bright lights of opportunity as you launch.

4. Focus on your physical and Spiritual health – far too often those mounting to-do’s make us drop or delay other key areas of our lives. If necessary put time on your calendar for your fitness and faith.

5. Anxiety and fear are the product of looking back or too far into the future , focus on what is in front of you now, and leverage what you have. The quickest way to stop creatively solving roadblocks is to become fearful.



What about you? Have you experienced stress during the start-up phase?
What advice do you recommend to entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of their business?
What zapped you most in your start-up?
This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. I think fear is a natural emotion for entrepreneurs. If you are not operating on the fringes of fear then you are playing it too safe.

    A very wise experienced business owner once told me that it’s normal to alternate between days of complete exhilaration and days of stark terror. When you are experiencing one, keep in mind that the other is just around the corner 😉

    1. Thank you for the comment, and unfortunately you are right.

      The very drive that keeps us inventing new solutions, solving new problems and working 20 hour days can also be our curse.

      As I watch the winter Olympics I am reminded as I watch the down hill skiers that the gold metal goes to those who cut that fine line between control and out of control.

      Fear however, if left unchecked can be the single worst enemy of an entrepreneur as it robs you of creativity. When your creative problem solving gift is lost, you loose the power to build a market leading company.


  2. Thank you for the reassuring comments. I am going to examine if any of your reasons for failure relate to my business still being in the infantile stage. How do you factor into larger issues like the state of the economy into whether you are on the right path?

    1. Factoring in the economy is something we all must do. The degree to which you need to weight the economy and its impact on your launch depends upon how fully you solve a market problem and your customer’s ability to pay to have their problem solved. Though the economy has been better, the lines for the new I phones are just as long.
      If you can not clearly state the problem your new product or service solves, ( and you would not be alone) I highly recommend you stop and do more market research before you invest more time and capital.
      Some market leading brands were launched during the great depression; Revlon, Miracle Whip, Lazy Boy, Motorola ….why they grew to market leaders is they all set out to solve an unmet market need.
      Good luck with your business!


  3. I found your site through your comment on BNET. I enjoyed reading your posts here. As an entrepreneur and General Manager of various businesses over the past many years, I find your points to be right on the money.

    A lot of people are intrigued by the IDEA of running their own business, but the vision quickly fades when they discover how much work it really can be (24/7 when required). I’ve seen too many businesses rise and fall (fail) as “would be” entrepreneurs blame the economy or the market. It’s not Mexico or China that we really need to worry about. There is always a better way or a different way.

    If you are looking to start a business as a “me too” company, your chances of success are much slimmer unless you’re really that much better at it. Proving that you are will be the real challenge.

    I’m impressed by people like Domenic Orr, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Branson, and many others who literally create their market and understand their business environment – extremely well. They teach us the vocabulary that define their products. Google is a noun, a verb, and a product / service all wrapped into one.

    On a much larger scale, when Toyota entered the North American market some years ago, the resistance to their presence was loud and riotous. Yet they persevered and today, recalls and all, they are strong and applauded by their loyal customer base.

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