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Everything Is Hard

Steve Schlafman
Steve Schlafman
2 min read

Earlier this week, my friend Julien Smith, Co-Founder and Chairman of Breather, posted the following tweet.

Julien knows better than just about anyone on the planet how challenging it can be to build a company with a digital AND physical product. The operational complexities and capital requirements are unique.

In that moment, Julien’s tweet reminded me of a recent exchange with Joshua Browder, the dynamic and talented founder of Do Not Pay. I sent him a note to congratulate him on his recent funding and to wish him good luck in the next phase of the company. He remarked, “Thank you so much! It’s a very tough company to build.” Josh and co are building real technology using “bits” as Julien put it. That’s hard too.

I then remembered a conversation I had with Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music, several years ago. Downtown is arguably one of the leading music rights management companies in the world. Justin and I were talking about the variety of challenges of running a business. He said something during our breakfast that has stuck with me, “Everything is hard.

Scaling a distributed co-working company is hard. Just ask Julien. Creating a robo lawyer to fight for consumers is hard. Just ask Mr Browder. Acquiring and monetizing music rights is hard. Just ask Justin.

You know what else is hard? Getting the guts to quit your job and start a business. Finding the right co-founders. Building a sustainable business as a freelancer / micro entrepreneur. Finding product market fit. Acquiring customers at scale. Developing real technical innovation. Timing the market perfectly. Convincing investors to give you huge sums of money every 12-18 months. Mustering the fortitude to march ahead when growth isn’t up and to the right. Building a brand that resonates with customers. Developing mutually beneficial strategic partnerships. Hiring, scaling and motivating a team. Achieving profitability. Growing and fostering a community. Managing and surviving the emotional ups and downs. Hell, even building a VC firm is hard.

Everything is hard.

I’m not here to discourage or dissuade aspiring entrepreneurs. You should absolutely sprint towards your vision and dream as fast as you can. Nothing should hold you back if you truly believe in yourself and the opportunity.  Go for it.

Here’s my point: every single entrepreneurial journey is difficult and has twists, turns, ups and downs. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or fifth company, an atom or bit based product, bootstrapped or venture backed startup. Every business is unique and has its own challenges. There’s no such thing as a walk in a park.

That’s why it’s critical to surround yourself with people who will offer unwavering support throughout the journey. This includes friends, advisors, mentors, other founders, mastermind groups, coaches, and therapists. Don’t underestimate the power of having neutral supporters in your corner to act as sounding boards and help you manage the ups and downs. It’s priceless.

My former partner, Eric Hippeau, always used to say, “It takes a village to raise a startup.” I couldn’t agree more.

Everything is hard but you can make the journey a bit easier by building and leveraging your very own support team and/or personal board of directors. You won’t regret it.


Steve Schlafman Twitter

Exec coach. Writer. Student of Change.