When entrepreneurs first launch their companies, they have often previously romanticised long discussions with other entrepreneurs about their startups and how they will collaborate. They picture themselves pitching to VCs and ultimately creating a company that disrupts their industry.
But for many this is just not the case, at least not in the first few years. And a majority of wannabe-entrepreneurs are simply not cut out for what comes next.
The one thing I personally learnt as an entrepreneur was how easily it became an obsession to build my business — and like any obsession your life shifts to make way for the outcomes this obsession requires.
Prior to building my company, I had never much related to any friends who went on to become parents. I couldn’t relate to their lifestyles and I was sure they could never relate to mine.
However, that was until three years into my first company, when I realised I was no different to them. My baby was just different. My ‘parent’ friends and I started to lament over the sleepless nights, the daily struggles – at least for a period of growth. They were raising little humans and I was raising a company that employed humans.
The reality for entrepreneurs can be just as shocking as I imagine it is for first-time parents, because there is so much that no one told you.
While success as an entrepreneur comes in many different forms, there is generally a sense of fulfilment in seeing the growth of what started off as an idea. Entrepreneurs often put 60 to 110 hours a week into their startup, lots of money and, of course, attempt to survive the everyday emotional rollercoaster that comes with building a business.
The idea that the monopoly on fulfilment is based solely around having a family is not new — and is also not invalid — but fulfilment and family mean so many different things to different people.
In many ways entrepreneurs feel like a parent, and our responsibility is around discerning what is best for the company. We often feel emotionally attached to the company and its development, and will do anything to protect it and the people within it. You could say entrepreneurs possess a maternal instinct towards the companies they build.
So it was interesting for me to find that a multidisciplinary study had taken place to look at whether or not entrepreneurs love their company like parents love their children.
Looking at the emotional bond between companies and the entrepreneurs that started them, and at the brain areas responsible for processing emotion, found a link between the established love between entrepreneur and company and the bond between parent and child.
Like parents, not all entrepreneurs are alike. There are some great ones and some lousy ones, and in the agnostic world of business, tough decisions are made. However, studies like this help educate the harsher realities of entrepreneurship, which can be far more complex when dealing with high-stress scenarios that inevitably plague most entrepreneurs.
But this research also provides a tangible way to understand why some entrepreneurs forego their weekends to build their companies, and why so many end up being viewed as ‘obsessed’. We seem to be less critical of parents with their ‘obsessive’ period of raising their children than we are of entrepreneurs who are quickly put in the ‘workaholic’ category.
Does this study perhaps just give me permission to indulge in my workaholic ways? Perhaps, but it also validates the love entrepreneurs feel towards what we build every day, and establishes the idea that there are multiple pathways to fulfilment.
Alexandra Tselios is founder of The Big Smoke Media.