Starting and Running a Company are Completely Different

I don’t know what other startup founders experience along the way, but for me it’s been quite jarring.

For the longest time I felt like I was being unproductive whenever I wasn’t doing something in the first group. Things like email and meetings felt like they weren’t ‘real work’. And perhaps they weren’t. In the early days of Envato, the real work was … well, making Envato.

These days I have the opposite problem. When I sneakily open Photoshop, or make time to write, or chat on the forums, it feels suspiciously like I’m dodging the budget, avoiding my burgeoning inbox, or procrastinating on reading a tax report.

For Everything There is a Season

My mother says that in life there are seasons. She gave me this advice when our first son arrived. And like the first warm day of spring, or the initial chill of winter, his arrival was a definite shift in season!

Her words resonated with me, and I remember them whenever I reflect on what’s changed since I became a parent. Fatherhood has its ups and its downs, just like pre-parenthood had its fair share of good and bad. Neither is better than the other, they are just different.

In startup life too there are seasons. The beginning of a company’s life has some amazing bits to it. There’s the complete open world of possibility, the triumph of early wins, the excitement of creating something that wasn’t there before, and the fun of being the underdog. Balancing those are the money problems, the fear of failure, the difficulty of creating something that doesn’t yet exist, and all the lack of resources that come with being the underdog.

Some years ago, the season changed. Envato grew up and became a company. The number of people went from a handful to a few dozen, to a couple hundred. And with the new season came new positives and new challenges.

Today there is the magic of a great team, the satisfaction of watching a happy culture growing, the luxury of resources, and the confidence of achievement. But on the flip is the array of issues that come with a larger business, like the challenges of keeping culture healthy, the inertias of size, and the need to think about hairy stuff like cross-border tax landscapes!

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