Make a Medic started off as a rag-tag student society with relatively flimsy leadership on my part. I am pleased to say that it has since become a well recognised medical education charity with a global audience. Once a small organisation starts to gain momentum, everyone is full of praise and is quick to idolise and romanticise the start-up journey as if it were crafted by intelligent design. In reality, many start-ups will stumble from mistake to mistake with a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes. There are three main challenges that I personally faced whilst working on Make a Medic and, I’m sure, will resonate with other start-up founders.
1. Personal Workload
If you are the leader of a start-up, you are considered the paragon of enthusiasm for the start up. You set the standard and, in the early days, you are the lifeblood of the organisation. You may have a small group working with you, but you must be the most enthusiastic and usually that means shouldering the greatest workload.
2. Imposter Syndrome
Gaining recognition as a start-up is a rather unnerving experience. There is some slightly bizarre comfort in the knowledge that you can call it quits on start-ups whilst in the embryonic phase, however, once you gain some recognition and others are placing some trust in your organisation, the sense of responsibility increases dramatically.
It is tempting, in such circumstances, to continue the ‘small organisation’ mindset and stem your own progress rather than using this newfound platform to propel yourself to the next level. By acknowledging that you are likely to experience this phenomenon as your start-up grows, you can mitigate against this backwards mindset and, instead, view growth with ambition and vigour.
3. Identifying Genuine Enthusiasm
As a start-up grows and gains more recognition, you will have more and more people expressing an interest in getting involved with your organisation. Once your credibility has grown to a certain level, you can feel confident in the knowledge that your organisation commands enough respect to trust the authenticity of the enthusiasm demonstrated by various people that reach out to you. Before you get to this point, however, the allure of being involved with a start-up and the misperception that early start-up life is chilled can mean that several individuals come forward offering their services without particularly robust underlying motivation.
It is incredibly difficult to tell apart those that are genuinely sold on the ethos of the start-up and are keen to put in the hard graft to move things forward, and those that join a CV filler. Unfortunately, I don’t have any particularly good tips to overcome this issue. It inevitably ends up being a trial and error situation but when you do find those individuals who are as passionate about your cause as you are, your life becomes considerably easier.