How Many Hours Should You Work As A Startup CEO?

hard work

“I must be doing something wrong,” I said to myself. “I’m not working 100 hours a week.”

We had just received our initial funding the month before,  and I was working maybe forty hours a week. Maybe.

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Now I was in the office from 8AM to 7PM Monday through Friday. So I had the appearance that I was working hard, but the reality was much different.

There wasn’t that much for me to do when we started out.

It was a show. I wanted the team to think I was working really hard. I was worried that the team would leave early if I left early.

Did it work? Probably not.


Your team is going to do what they normally do. It’s more about the people you hire.


If my “first person in, last person out” theory was working then I would have been the first in and the last out. I was many times the first in, but the last out? Forget about it.

Some of the team worked until 5:30PM. Others worked until 6PM. And the engineers usually came in late and left later.


Focus on hiring great people and you don’t have to worry about work hours.


It was an amateur mistake on my part. It was part of my paranoid mindset that I hadn’t shaken from my younger days.

Now the good news was we had a great team. And I think that’s the lesson for you:

  • Work the hours you need to work to get the job done, and…
  • Hire great people that you can delegate as much of the responsibility to as possible, and…
  • Take vacations every year, and…
  • Encourage your team to take vacations too.

Shortly after we got funded, I went to a Venture Capital event for companies in my industry.  One of the speakers was the CEO of a company that just got acquired for a reasonable amount of money.

He was asked during the Q & A about work-life balance.  And I'll never forget his answer:

"Work-life balance?  You're working at a startup!  There is no such thing as work-life balance."


Who wants to work in an environment like that?  So there is another way if you want to take it.  But I sure didn't.

The good news is, if you hire the right people, they'll work hard enough without you having to beat them.


The reality is you’ll be thinking about your company every waking hour.


It’s normal to be thinking about your company all the time. That’s part of being a CEO.

When I'm out to dinner with my wife, I am thinking about the company.  When, I'm watching Avery perform in the school play, I'm thinking about the company.  When I visited with my mom, I was thinking about the company.


However, thinking about your company all the time is different than working all the time.


You need time to recharge. Startups are a marathon, not a sprint. And you and your team need to pace yourselves or you’ll never make it to the finish line.

For more, read: 7 Survival Tips For Startup CEOs.


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