The emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship

August 26, 2011

This is one of the must-read pieces of advice about being a startup entrepreneur, and something I share frequently with friends and people I’m advising. Being an entrepreneur is hard, you won’t always feel like you can conquer the world, but don’t worry, you’re not alone:

Marc Andreessen wrote:

First and foremost, a start-up puts you on an emotional rollercoaster unlike anything you have ever experienced. You flip rapidly from day-to-day – one where you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again. Over and over and over. And I’m talking about what happens to stable entrepreneurs. There is so much uncertainty and so much risk around practically everything you are doing. The level of stress that you’re under generally will magnify things to incredible highs and unbelievable lows at whiplash speed and huge magnitude. Sound like fun?

Here entrepreneur and Teamly advisor, Cameron Herold talks about how you get through it and crucially, what to do, and what not to do at each stage of the rollercoaster. Take the time to watch the videos to hear what he has to say, it will help.

Or, if you’d prefer to read, take a look at this blog by Cameron about entrepreneurial manic-depression and how to ride the curve.

Part 1:

Part 2:


How to build an $8Bn company: take some “brave pills”

May 13, 2010

The message from Sir Bill Gammell, founder and CEO of Cairn Energy Plc, a Scottish based oil company is that “there is no bar” to how far you can go. The limiting factor is your attitude and ambition. Swallow some “brave pills”. Click the image to enlarge and find out what each pill contains.

To succeed he emphasises the need for a clear vision, and determined action. Having increased the value of his company 155-fold in the last 18 years he speaks with some degree of authority.

More impressive to me is that Sir Bill – a former star of Scottish rugby – has built this impressive international business based on fundamental truths of respect, relationships and responsibility.

An example of their good principles: paying $10M to exit a contract in China when they discovered they couldn’t do business on these principles. His advice, “Only do business with people you would be happy to have dinner with” is surprisingly similar to Warren Buffett’s rule that he only does business with people he “likes, trusts and admires”. The point is that there’s a lot more to business than just money.

Like Buffett, Sir Bill is driven by “creating something with a legacy and long-term sustainable performance”. To achieve this, alignment with your shareholders is essential and to attract them you need enthusiasm, energy, passion, credibility and honesty. Adding value is a recurring theme at Cairn, and the audience were more than a little taken aback when he asked a number of people at random, “Did you add value? Did you make a difference today?”

The oil industry is dominated by a small number of very large companies, but Cairn prefer, where possible to go it alone rather than partner with these slow-moving giants: “We look for a reason to make things happen, rather than look for reasons not to do things”

Apart from his obvious personal drive and determination Sir Bill’s success is no doubt down to the ability to build a fantastic team. By “valuing and empowering good people” you can unlock success. It’s important to “encourage people to take and accept responsibility”. As an entrepreneur he was surprised to discover that in fact people are not very willing to take responsibility, and concludes there is a “great danger in not giving people responsibility young enough”. With this in mind the Winning Scotland Foundation was set up to create a “positive winning attitude throughout Scotland”.

It seems fitting that the headline on Cairn’s website says “discovering hidden value”, while clearly intended to illustrate their core competency of oil and gas exploration, it could apply just as well to their attitude to their most important resource, their people. I was inspired by Sir Bill, a true entrepreneurial hero.

Sir Bill Gammell was speaking at The Entrepreneurial Exchange, a Scottish organisation where entrepreneurs help each other grow and create businesses of scale. A sister organisation in London is coming later this year and The Entrepreneurs’ Forum has been going strong in North East England for over 7 years. Internationally, the EO is the nearest equivalent. If you’re an entrepreneur looking for support and help I can recommend any of these superb organisations.