Founders – Get your own personal board

Published on
October 10, 2018
min read

Every founder I know gets impostor syndrome. Every single one. It’s pretty much inevitable.

When you’re building something from scratch that hasn’t been done before — at some point you’re going to be scared the world will realise you have no idea what you’re doing.

And when you mix imposter syndrome with the insane pressure of running a startup, you can wind up with a pretty toxic cocktail for your mental wellbeing. It’s no wonder the stats are so frightening. Almost half of founders will struggle with mental health issues at some point.

Whenever I’ve talked about these sorts of issues before, a few founders always reach out for advice on what to do when the days are dark. I always wish I had a good answer, but it feels like I never do. I’m definitely no expert, and everyone responds differently when they’re struggling.

But there are some preventative measures that can at least help you prepare for when things get bad. One technique I’ve seen work is to build your own ‘personal board’.

Founders always spend a tonne of time thinking about their company’s board of directors — trying to get the right size and mix of personalities and skill sets to support the company. But what if you applied the same thinking to your own support network?

Why not surround yourself with a group of people who are equally dedicated to supporting your own personal development and mental wellbeing? Then who would you have on your personal board?

Everyone’s different, but I’d have a think about finding people who can fill the following roles:

  1. The Professional Mentor: Most founders will already have a close professional mentor, and if you don’t — get one. Look for someone who has built a business in your space before, or at least someone who has experienced the pains of growing a company of a similar size. But most importantly, find someone who really gives a shit. You don’t need a cheerleader — but you do need someone who will support you during setbacks, and who’s not afraid to ask you the uncomfortable questions that you may otherwise try to ignore.
  2. The Mental Health Coach: It’s important to have someone that you can have an open and judgement-free conversation with about your mental wellbeing. This might be a clinical psychologist, a life coach, a counsellor, or could just be a close friend. Ideally this will be someone who knows a bit about mental health already and can help you with coping strategies. We’ve got a whole panel of people that we’ve worked with in the past and recommend to our portfolio — so if you’re ever in need of some names just ping me.
  3. The Bigger Picture Person: When you’re going through a rough patch, having someone that can give you a broader perspective is important. This is where it helps to have someone from outside the startup bubble. Find someone who has completely different interests to you who can give you an outsider’s perspective. This could be a partner, a spouse or an old school friend.
  4. The Pressure Release Valve: Sometimes you just need to vent at someone who really understands what you’re going through. Other founders are great for this — they get it. A lot of CEOs I know will have a regular catchups with a peer support network of other CEOs that they can rant to over a coffee or glass of wine. Get one of these.

Often more than one of these roles will be played by the same person or vice versa. Ideally, there’ll also be some overlap between your personal board and your company board. But it doesn’t really matter.

What’s important is that you make time to speak to these people on a regular basis.

You probably won’t want a formal ‘board meeting’ with them all at once (or maybe you will?), but you should get into the habit of speaking to them frequently.

AirTree Ventures entities listed below are corporate authorised representatives (CAR) of Boutique Capital Pty Ltd (BCPL) AFSL 508011.

CAR has taken all reasonable care in producing all the information contained in the website including but not limited to reports, tables, maps, diagrams and photographs.

However, CAR will not be responsible for loss or damage arising from the use of this information. The contents of this website should not be used as a substitute for detailed investigations or analysis on any issues or questions the reader wishes to have answered.

You may download the information for your own personal use or to inform others about our materials, but you may not reproduce or modify it without our express permission.

To the extent to which this website contains advice it is general advice only and has been prepared by the Company for individuals identified as wholesale investors for the purposes of providing a financial product or financial service, under Section 761G or Section 761GA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

The information in this website is not intended to be relied upon as advice to investors or potential investors and has been prepared without taking into account personal investment objectives, financial circumstances or particular needs. Recipients of this information are advised to consult their own professional advisers about legal, tax, financial or other matters relevant to the suitability of this information.

Any investment(s) summarised in this website is subject to known and unknown risks, some of which are beyond the control of CAR and their directors, employees, advisers or agents. CAR does not guarantee any particular rate of return or the performance, nor does CAR and its directors personally guarantee the repayment of capital or any particular tax treatment. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

All investments carry some level of risk, and there is typically a direct relationship between risk and return. We describe what steps we take to mitigate risk (where possible) in the investment documentation, which must be read prior to investing. It is important to note risk cannot be mitigated completely.

Whilst the contents of this website is based on information from sources which CAR considers reliable, its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Data is not necessarily audited or independently verified. Any opinions reflect CAR’s judgment at this date and are subject to change. CAR has no obligation to provide revised assessments in the event of changed circumstances. To the extent permitted by law, BCPL, CAR and their directors and employees do not accept any liability for the results of any actions taken or not taken on the basis of information in this website, or for any negligent misstatements, errors or omissions.

AirTree Ventures 2021 Trustco Pty Ltd ACN 652 901 409 CAR Number 1293641, AirTree Ventures Opportunity Fund 2019 Trustco Pty Ltd ACN 633 454 467 CAR Number 1293645, AirTree Ventures Opportunity Fund 2021 Trustco Pty Ltd ACN 652 901 043 CAR Number 1293642, AirTree Ventures Opportunity Fund Trustco Pty Limited ACN 609 594 881 CAR Number 1293643.