Why founders need broad shoulders

Earlier today I spent a fruitless half-hour trying to convince a solo founder that he would a be lot better off if he recruited a co-founder *before* he tried to raise money, not after. (Side note — the Startup Genome report makes this case much better than I ever will).

The founder’s counter-argument was that the guys he had in mind to recruit were too talented — and too highly paid — to be willing to join without a guaranteed paycheck.

When I pressed him on how much real risk his candidates would be taking by quitting their jobs in a white-hot market for technical talent, his response was that he wasn’t prepared to shoulder the responsibility for the risk they and their families would be taking if he talked them into joining up before he raised money.

Emotionally, I completely understand where this founder was coming from — it’s one thing to make a personal choice to chuck the cushy corporate job to become an entrepreneur; it’s quite another to play Pied Piper and talk others into making the same leap of faith.

Unfortunately, shouldering the burdens of others is exactly what startup founders do for a living.

In the earliest days of a company’s life, the founders and the “company” are basically one and the same. Every time a founder turns around — from recruiting early employees, to raising money, to talking new customers into a sale — they’re making yet another *personal* commitment to making everything right.

The heaviest load a startup founder carries isn’t doing the work, it’s bearing the emotional burden of being personally responsible for all the many promises the company makes to survive. Building a business from scratch is one of the most satisfying things a person can do in life, but it takes broad shoulders and a big heart.