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The myth of 'Founder Freedom'.

Guest blog by Greg Freeman, Founder of Data Literacy Academy.



“I’m really jealous. I’ve always wanted to have my own business, so I can manage my own schedule and have the freedom to do what I want.”

 

As a Founder-CEO you get feedback like this all the time. From family, friends, colleagues and really anyone you tell. However, let’s clear something up immediately… FAKE NEWS!!

 

In this blog I hope to deal a small dose of reality. Not because there aren’t lots of amazing elements of being a founder: the wins, the highs, overcoming the lows, building a team of fantastic people and of course, knowing that if it all works out, like our esteemed blog host, you actually will be able to do everything you want one day.

 

But because, like most amazing things in life, it definitely doesn’t come for free.

 

The truth is, since I founded Data Literacy Academy nearly 2 years ago, I’ve never felt less in control, less able to manage my own schedule and less able to ‘enjoy the ride’. You repeatedly hear, ‘you need to enjoy the small wins,’ when in your head, you’re getting less and less likely to. My sense is that most people imagine a work-life balance where they can choose when they work, when they spend time with family and friends or when they go on holiday. You’re the boss… who’s going to stop you, right!?

 

Then in many cases, they also dream of the movie-worthy ending with epic parties, millions of dollars of funding… and maybe even the odd major lawsuit (perhaps not)? We’ve all watched ’The Social Network’ and thought ’surely that can be me too’, haven’t we!?

 

Sadly though, those two things go together like ‘Olaf’ and Summer (little ‘Frozen’ reference for you there). So unless you want to find yourself melting like our snowy friend, the number one piece of advice I can give you is to go into it with very, very (very, very, very) open eyes. Whichever way you’re thinking about ‘being your own boss’ - for freedom now or freedom later - just know it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll have both.

 

It’s way more likely that you’ll spend the next 10-20 years at the beck and call of an ever-growing number of people who need you to answer questions only you can answer, remembering that payroll is tomorrow and everyone’s mortgage depends on you running it and giving up more time with family and friends than anyone really should.

 

So, in the shadow of some founder doom and gloom, what can you do to ensure you survive hopefully the toughest journey you’ll ever go on (this is me wishing good, long-term health on everyone reading and their families, as this would obviously be even harder!)?

 

5 things you can do to help yourself, even before you realise your freedom has evaporated into thin air…


  1. To repeat my earlier point - know which version of the founder journey you want If you go in hoping it’ll let you watch Sports Day on a Tuesday afternoon, but expect the rapid growth too, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s better to know now and psychologically plan for it. That said, my good friend, Matt Davies of Matt Davies Leadership chose Sports Days and he’s happier than ever - check him out! It’s perfectly fine to want this.

  2. Tell your Partner and Friends Once you’ve come to terms with it, deliberately open a transparent dialogue with your husband/wife/partner/significant other and closest friends - if they’re not aware of just how much it will take out of you and away from them (they need to get used to you turning up late, missing events and working on holiday), they could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in the hardest of times. However, open and maintain this dialogue effectively, and they could be the cheerleaders who drag you through those times. Be the best team you can be with your partner.  

  3. Don’t Quit your Hobbies This might seem counterintuitive, given I’ve just told you all your free time is about to disappear, but the worst thing you can become on this journey is lonely (you’ll feel it half the time anyway!). So if you’re a happy sportsperson, gym goer or band member today, do everything you can do keep this going, as the distraction and friendship will be imperative to your success.

  4. Look After your Health Now, we’ve all heard the phrase ‘health is wealth’, and in my humble opinion, like many things in 2024 this phrase has been weaponised for people to convince themselves that they should slow down at the first sign of things getting a bit rough… so I don’t mean it like that. However, I became aware quite early on that eating right when you’re constantly travelling and getting up even earlier to train was going to be difficult long term. With this in mind, the best decision I’ve made since starting Data Literacy Academy is to get a personal trainer. For 20 years I was able to manage every element of discipline myself. But today, all my discipline goes into the business. Don’t be afraid to reach for health-help, as it’s definitely not easy to maintain!

  5. And finally… Get up every day and go again! Ultimately, you might as well ensure that all the effort, missed time with loved ones and hard times are worth it. The best way to do that is do, do more and keep doing, even when it feels unfair or like you have nothing left to give. Become obsessed with just going again. That way you’ll make progress when nobody else is.


There we have it. If you’re thinking of starting your own business to find a freedom you’ve always dreamed of, just ensure you know which freedom it is you’re chasing, as I can’t imagine you’ll get both!

 

You can find Greg on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregdata/


And learn more about how Data Literacy Academy can transform your team with data literacy - https://dl-academy.com/

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