Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and requiring constant peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”
“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”
Ep. 84 - With Guy Yamen, Managing Partner at TPY Capital
The link between being a father and an investor
“I don’t think many things have prepared me to become an investor more than being a father, and I don’t think I would have been as decent of a father as I am had I not been an investor before.”
When I asked Guy what connects the two, he explained, “There are some things that transcend when you look at things from both lenses - like the temptation when working with startups to reach beyond what will actually drive the needle. It’s important as an investor to recognize what will really drive the needle, focus on that, and accept what you can’t change in the trajectory of the startups, which is similar to being a father in a way.”
In more ways than one, Guy sees this connection between the professional side of things to the emotional one and uses it to his advantage. This connection helped him dedicate himself to his work fully and also impacted his decisions in the startups he chose to invest in.
Many can get cynical about it–Guy did when he was younger– but the years of experience gave him the maturity to embrace the power of emotions in guiding you - even in your career path.
We can argue that in being guided by our emotional side we’re not being very analytical and rational, but if we really think about it - we can’t separate our nature as humans from our emotions. It’s always there, pulling the strings, whether we like it or not.
By acknowledging it we’re not being immature - but quite the opposite. When we put our emotions and intuition in the spotlight, we can use them as powerful tools, instead of being strung by them from the shadows of our psyche, without understanding ourselves and where our decisions are really coming from.
Leadership without facade
When we talked about true leadership, Guy shared about a meaningful visit to Starbucks’s roastery in Shanghai with Belinda Wong, the CEO of Starbucks in China - “What was really remarkable to me is that there were absolutely zero facades. It was very clear that everyone recognized that the CEO of Starbucks is walking around among the people, but still, no one changed their attitude at all - and this is the exact leadership I would hope for entrepreneurs to adopt - where you walk the ground next to your employees, and no one gets fazed and changes their behaviour because of that.”
Another key component of leadership without a facade we pinpointed during our conversation is the acknowledgment of our egos. The fact is, we’re all influenced by our ego and its needs. It’s ok, we’re all human, it’s an inevitable part of us - but it is our responsibility to identify and acknowledge its existence, and make sure it’s not the main aspect that’s ruling us. When we recognize it’s our ego pulling the strings, it’s an opportunity to really look and learn something about ourselves, and about what’s important to us.
Learning to listen the hard way
“You think that you’re a good listener until you can’t utter a word” - Guy shared a lesson he learned after doing minor surgery on his vocal cords, which left him unable to speak for a few days. He said with a smile: “First of all, it was a gift to the universe around me, but beyond that, there was something about those few days that I wasn't allowed to speak, that taught me true awareness and observation on a different level. Since then, in any work-related meeting, I try to remind myself to listen more and speak a little bit less.”
A lesson from a friend
Guy remembers vividly the time when a good friend of his was diagnosed with ALS more than 15 years ago. ALS doesn’t impact the mind, but every single muscle in the body degenerates. Witnessing his friend dealing with that kind of life-changing news had a huge impact on him - as a friend, an entrepreneur, an investor, a father - “I have never seen and I don’t think I’ll ever see someone who has faced such kind of adversity and that was able from day one to just pick himself up and actually do things about it. The one thing that I try to take out of this is the importance of action - doing something about it instead of just talking about it.”
When he dissected this ability into smaller traits, it came to the components of - resilience and optimism. “It’s the belief that tomorrow will be better, or has the chance to be better”.