Words of Wisdom: How to Grow as a Founder

Startup founders are a unique breed: eternal optimists, single-minded and brave beyond belief – but they are also just as flawed as everyone else. Being the best founder you can be is about growing as a leader and a person, which is easier said than done. To assist you we’ve listed six simple steps to being a better founder.

1. Accept you don’t know it all

It can be hard to accept your limitations when it feels like you’re about to change the world. But you’re only human. Shakespeare wrote: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Understanding that you can’t possibly know everything is a great launchpad for self-improvement. You’ll need to eat some humble pie (no, there’s not a recipe), but you’ll be all the better for acknowledging that there are some things you could do better.

2. Identify your weaknesses

Once you’ve accepted that you have flaws, it’s time to find out what they are. Be aware of your performance in all but the most mundane of tasks, and compare yourself to others. Having trouble seeing what you’re doing wrong? Ask people. Your peers will be diplomatic enough to communicate your weaknesses without offending you and will only be impressed by your thirst for improvement. Just be careful not to take constructive criticism the wrong way.

3. Go as far as you can alone

Self-improvement should start alone. Do everything you can to improve the things you’ve identified as weaknesses. Self-help books, awareness training and meditation may be clichéd but they can have surprising results so don’t let cynicism stand in the way. Be determined and set yourself realistic, measurable goals; a swear jar with a set fee is a great example. Focus on the reasons you set yourself your targets and stick to your guns in the face of skeptics.

4. Identify your ideal mentor

The best way to grow is through experience, and where you don’t have it, find someone who does. They’ll need to have the skills and experience you lack, but it’s also important you see eye-to-eye with them. That doesn’t mean you’re looking for someone to be best buddies with; you don’t need to agree with everything they say but you do need to understand their perspective. It’s also not about finding a person you want to emulate – you should be comfortable being yourself.

5. Start the conversation

Once you know who you want to be mentored by, get talking to that person. You’ll want to be comfortable with them before asking them to mentor you, and they’ll be more likely to accept the role if they know you well. The actual request may be a tough subject to broach. Remember that the worst that can happen is that they say no, and if they do, they weren’t the right person for the job in the first place. Once they say yes, be committed, be painfully honest and listen deeply.

6. Accept they don’t know it all

Getting all of your advice from one person isn’t the best way to develop. While you may want to stay in contact with your mentor, you may also way to think about other ways to grow. No-one’s perfect, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be! Keep growing as a person by making contact with others you think you can learn from and you’ll grow even more as a leader. Push yourself and commit to the process, and when you’ve done the best you can… restart at step number one.

At Oxygen Ventures we invest in founders as much as businesses, trust in their leadership abilities is a big part of our decision-making. We encourage active mentorship from our leaders as well as some of the best-qualified people in Larry Kestelman’s extensive network. If you think you would benefit from our funding and support, apply here.