How Entrepreneurs Take The Loss — When Startup Leaders Get Forced Out

Fight or flight, this is how you maintain your integrity

Joe Procopio

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In my long career as an entrepreneur, I can definitely say I’ve lost more times than I’ve won.

Not in the way you might think. In terms of outcomes, I’m batting well over 50%. But to get there, I’ve had to take a lot of Ls — from losing deals, to losing position, to losing face.

How do entrepreneurs deal with all of that losing? I mean, besides alcohol.

The deepest cut? Betrayal.

So yeah, I’ve had a lot of after-hours drinks with friends and associates, sometimes complete strangers, to hear their tales of having personal defeat snatched from the jaws of professional victory.

I’ve heard every story, from the founder who put every last penny and fiber of her being into an idea only to watch it fail due to a freak external factor, to the cofounder who built something game-changing, only to be forced out by people she trusted.

That last one burns. And I hear it a lot.

Being pushed out hurts more than failure, because at least failure is your own fault.

So let’s talk about how startup leaders get forced out of the company they were instrumental in building.

Startup is not a politics-free zone

One of the great things about starting up is that it’s mostly merit-based.

In the corporate world, there’s enough padding at most companies to allow bad actors to fool some of the people most of the time. They can fake or bully their way through, they can hide in the dark spaces, and as long as the company does well, they can focus solely on doing what’s best for them.

And when the company doesn’t do well, the swath of punishment is usually wide and arbitrary — a chunk of folks get laid off. If the bad actor is close to the decision makers, they’ve got a pretty good chance of survival.

This is politics. In a corporate nutshell.

Politics rarely happen at a startup, for truly mechanical reasons — as in if the mechanics of the company aren’t…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com