How to tackle setbacks in your startup

Hint: it involves setting aside your ego

Setbacks are a fact of #entrepreneurlife.

They're not a sign you suck at business. They're a sign you're running a business. Setbacks, of every size, happen to every business owner. Brit Morin, CEO of Brit + Co say small setbacks define most of her days. 

Successful SaaS companies, like Groove and Buffer, have publicly shared some of their biggest setbacks. And for those who don't know, Krit is the result of a setback; our agency exists because of a failed product (RIP).

You can't prevent setbacks. But you can minimize them (IF you set aside your ego.) 

When something goes wrong, most people react with anger, frustration, and blame. These reactions are normal, but they're not healthy, and they make setbacks even worse. They turn backslides into landslides, and landslides take a lot of time and energy to deal with.

You have limited resources, so your goal as a founder is to minimize setbacks, not embiggen them. To do that, you'll need to set aside your ego. Take the blame, admit you don't know everything (that's when you're ready to learn) and own the mess. Then move forward with the blazing optimism that defines all of us as entrepreneurs. 

Handling setbacks like a successful founder 🏆

Note: Some setbacks are so small that these tips don't apply. And some are so large that they're catastrophic failures. These tips address the mid-size setbacks that fall between the two.  

1. First things first. Talk about it. 
Acknowledge what happened and talk about it with your team. If customers are affected, talk to them too. Setbacks don't age well, so it's best to deal with them quickly. 

Not sure where to start? We put together this transcript to help you talk with your team. (If you need to address customers, check out our customer support edition for apology templates.)

2. Figure out what you can learn from it. 
Setbacks are great teachers. If you've put aside your ego and admitted you don't know everything, you can learn from what happened. Ask these questions to dig for insights:

  • What caused the problem?
  • Were there any warning signs this would happen?
  • How can I improve our [process, communication, methodology] to make sure this doesn't happen again?
  • What can I learn from this?

With a bit of effort, you'll uncover what you need to operate smarter, faster, and better.

3. Keep going. Move forward by focusing on success. ➡️
Setbacks define what we should avoid. But knowing where not to go is only part of the journey. Think about when you pull up Google maps. You don't type in all the congested areas and dangerous parts of town you want to avoid. You only enter your destination. 

To move toward your business destination, you need to have a similar kind of focus. Yes, know what you should avoid. But focus on where you should go. Keep your sights set on your destination and the successes you should replicate to get there. (Chances are, this current setback that feels so major is just a wrong turn or detour.) ↩️

Remember, everyone's winging it 😁

The big secret of startups is... no one really knows what they're doing. Few people are truly "crushing it," (and the ones that are don't think they are). If you're dealing with issues, you're not alone. 

What setbacks are you currently facing? Email andrew@builtbykrit.com and fill me in. If I've faced something similar, I'll respond with what I did to get back on track.  (Psst - this is your chance to put these tips to work and practice talking about it!) 

"Have the courage to accept you don't know it all."

- Margaret Cyphers, Creative Director for Google G Suite

Want to see us cover a topic? Have major startup questions or sticking points? Email andrew@builtbykrit.com