Being a founder, and especially being a founder-CEO, changes you. Not at first. The first year or two are a lot like “before”, just more intense. Now it’s all on your back, and your shoulders. But over time, your brain does get rewired. You get focused.
And as part of that change, you will lose friends on many levels if you build a successful start-up.
One tough part of that is if you co-found a company with friends, it’s likely one of them won’t go the distance. And it’s likely that will end up souring the relationship, at least partially. Doing a start-up with a great friend can be very powerful. Just bear in mind, it can also make the break-up a lot tougher.
You’ll also start to have less in common with some of your old friends who aren’t on the super intense founder journey. It’s just so much more intense and all-consuming than an individual contributor or even “ordinary” manager role. Your friends with that great life as line engineers at Google or Facebook … you’ll start to have less in common with them.
The good news is, you’ll also gain great new friends:
- As you scale, you’ll bond with other CEOs and founders at your level. You’ll have much in common with other CEOs at $1m, $10m, $50m, etc. ARR. Try to do more CEO dinners and such, even though I know you are tired and just want to go home. They are worth it in the long run.
- You’ll build great relationships with your VPs and team members, at least some of them. Later in life, when they aren’t your subordinates anymore, but just ex-colleagues … you’ll look back on some of the Best of Times.
- You’ll even make some friends in odd places, like partners, press, and more.
- You’ll have a special language with these friends that you will carry with you forever. You’ll do reunions. You’ll instantly remember that great customer win, that terrible customer loss, that crazy retreat, that do-or-die Hail Mary feature.
You’ll have more in common with these folks than some of your older friends.
And it’s a natural, organic way to make more friends later in life … at a time when it’s often naturally harder to make friends.
These “work journey” friends are one of the top benefits of building a successful start-up.