Navigating the Highs and Lows: The Role of Non-Executive Board Advisors in Mitigating Startup Stress

mentor non-exec for start ups

The entrepreneurial journey is as exhilarating as it is exhausting. Founders often find themselves grappling with sleepless nights, over-packed schedules, and an unyielding addiction to hustle. These are not just operational demands but badges of honour that signify commitment and aspiration towards monumental success.

Yet, this relentless pursuit comes at a high psychological price – chronic stress, anxiety, burnout, and even depression. In fact, the World Health Organization has forecasted that by 2020, stress will become the leading cause of illness in society.

During the Women@Forbes Kickoff at the Forbes Under 30 Summit, influential voices like Ara Katz, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Seed; Aditi Nerurkar, a Harvard Medical School integrative medicine physician; and Nashilu Mouen-Makoua, Associate at First Round Capital, shared their insights on the often silent struggle of entrepreneurship. Their discussions underscored not just the challenges but also strategies for navigating these turbulent waters.

Essential Habits for Founders

  1. Reframing Perspective: Ara Katz advocates for a shift in perspective towards mindfulness and presence. Despite a seemingly overwhelming schedule, Katz focuses on being conscious and detached from stress. This approach helps transform her perception of daily pressures, allowing for a more manageable and positive experience.
  2. Transparency with Investors: Often, founders feel compelled to present only the polished facets of their startups to investors. However, Mouen-Makoua stresses the importance of transparency. Viewing investor relationships as partnerships can foster a more supportive and understanding environment, which is crucial for navigating the startup ecosystem.
  3. Building a Supportive Community: The journey of entrepreneurship doesn’t require you to be a solitary hero. Establishing a strong support network, including friends, family, and fellow founders, can be a significant buffer against the isolating effects of startup life. Mouen-Makoua highlights the value of community-building exercises that allow founders to share challenges and solutions.
  4. Managing Stress: Dr. Nerurkar emphasizes the role of balanced lifestyles in managing stress. By focusing on sleep, diet, exercise, social support, and stress management, founders can enhance their resilience and overall well-being.
  5. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: The drive that propels many founders can also lead them to doubt their accomplishments. Mouen-Makoua advises founders to cultivate self-awareness and recognize when to take a step back, which can be crucial in managing feelings of inadequacy and maximizing productivity.

The Missing Ingredient: Non-Executive Board Advisors

While the strategies above are vital, there’s often a missing ingredient in the recipe for startup success: non-executive board advisors. These advisors bring a wealth of experience and an external perspective that can be critical in steering a company through its ups and downs. Their role is not just about governance or oversight but serving as a strategic ally who can offer guidance, mentorship, and support.

Non-executive advisors can help founders see beyond the immediate crises, offering insights that are detached from the day-to-day operations. This can prevent tunnel vision, helping to identify opportunities and threats that might not be immediately apparent. They can also act as a sounding board for founders, helping them navigate investor relations, strategic decisions, and personal challenges.

While the path of entrepreneurship is fraught with challenges, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

By adopting mindful habits, maintaining transparency, building a support network, managing stress effectively, and integrating experienced advisors into their ecosystem, founders can pave a more balanced and sustainable path towards success. The right non-executive board advisor could very well be the stabilising force that turns potential pitfalls into stepping stones for growth and innovation.


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