The Pain of Moving From A Struggling Start Up To A Sustainable Company

On November 7, 2012

The Pain of Moving From A Struggling Start Up To A Sustainable Company

When I started creating our organization four years ago, I was scared to death we were going to fail.  My circumstances were:

  • A one-year old child
  • A wife that wanted to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom
  • Only $36,000 saved in the bank
  • No contracts signed with potential clients
  • An idea that I thought MIGHT work
  • No insurance or benefits
  • No team members
  • No start-up money

We were completely in unstable circumstances.  I remember telling my wife, “If the $36,000 runs out, I’ll just go get a job somewhere.”  The amount of fear I had was unreal.  I was so scared that people wouldn’t buy into the idea, I would be rejected, I would not know how to run a business, my daughter wouldn’t see her dad because I would be gone all the time, etc.

Fear is a funny thing.  In so many ways, the fear of failure is good when you are starting an organization.  Fear of not being able to provide for your family is normal and not some crazy sin.  The fear of the organization not making it off the ground drives us crazy – people that start things wake up early, go to bed late & lay it all on the line for a season of life.

For two years, it felt like I was going through hell.  Long hours, less pay, no benefits, & not a lot of affirmation, but we were making it.  I made so many mistakes, hired the wrong people, made stupid decisions to get into things we had no business getting into & more.

Then after two years of trial & error, the idea of The Rocket Company hit me.  I learned that I wanted to create an organization that would scale, not one that demanded me to do everything.  Over the last two years, our team has built something that really works.  So, guess what happened, the 3rd idea I had actually works.  As a founder, I’m shocked it worked.  I literally felt like we would be a “struggling start up” forever.

Now that things are working, people come talk to us & say, “Wow, you have been successful.”  Nobody used to take my calls, now I can get meetings with influential people.  Our team is being built right & we have leaders, not just doers around The Rocket Company.  All of a sudden I woke up one day & we were deemed “A Success” by some people.  I don’t say this to brag, I say it to make this point.

I fear success more than failure.

Here is why the transition from scrappy start up to a sustainable organization has been very hard on me personally:

I want to be needed

I go to counseling & my counselor helped me realize that I have a desire to be needed by people.  When I feel like I’m needed, I feel successful & full.  This is bull crap & not true, but I buy into that desire to be needed.  So in the beginning, I was the hero or the zero.  I was needed on every decision & initiative.  I felt so needed by the team & clients.

As we have grown, I have found that I’m not as needed.  People don’t ask me to come to every meeting & I’m definitely not in on a lot of decisions.  The two people that directly report to me are secure & not needy.  When I wake up daily, I don’t feel needed for the organization to run & move forward.  The brand has become bigger than my personality & now I’m not as needed.

I fear more success because of being needed less.  But as I started to think about this I realized something.  The organization isn’t me & I’m not the organization.  Like a mom weans a baby a founder should wean the organization.  I fear this now more than failing early on because there is so much more to lose.  Being “needed” is the drug that keeps founders overbearing & stunting the growth of the organization.

Yes, I am currently scared to death for the organization to ride without training wheels, but I’m not going to let it stop me.  I was scared to let my daughter play outside by herself for the first time a few years ago too, but now it’s where her best memories are made with friends.  So what am I doing to wean The Rocket Company from me?

1. I hired Les McKeown as my paid coach

Les is a paid coach that helps me, but also tells me tough things.  He gets onto me & calls me out for my organization & leadership sins.  I don’t know why every person on earth doesn’t hire Les.  He is a complete genius & will help any organization scale.

2. I submitted to a Board

We formalized our board.  The board is made up of very, very, very smart people.  They GOT IN MY GRILL on our first board retreat & helped me see that I was the issue when it came to scaling The Rocket Company.

3. I am saying, “No”

We created a “What can only Casey do” grid.  It has 4 things on it & for the first time in my life, I’m saying No to stuff.  It KILLS ME.  I hate saying no to people.  Being real honest… Just this morning I said NO to three opportunities that would have immediately put 74k in our bank account.  Why?  They aren’t core.  Yes, they would be easy for me to do. Yes it made them mad that I would say no. Yes it was hard to turn that down.  But saying No is our new mantra.  It’s literally killing me to say no to people & opportunities but we are doing it every day.

4. I am holding it loosely

My friends David, Rodney, Chad, Louie, Michael & Phil help me keep things real.  The reality is, the company will come & it will go.  We will take what we do seriously, but hold it loosely & know that all of this is just an opportunity to serve & help people.  If it goes away tomorrow, my self worth isn’t completely tied to it.  I still struggle with this but I’m working hard to just hold it all loosely & know that God really is at work & holds all things together.


  • By caseygraham  6 Comments   


    Posted by Patrick Moore on
    • Nov 7 2012
    Thanks for sharing Casey. I have felt some of that same pain in launching a church. Thanks for all you do. The Moore family loves you bro!
      Posted by caseygraham on
      • Nov 8 2012
      Thanks Patrick... We love you too bro
    Posted by Carissa on
    • Nov 8 2012
    Holy cow. So blessed to nag you as my mentor.
      Posted by caseygraham on
      • Nov 8 2012
      Love ya Carissa! Thanks for being a good friend & I love the Nest!
    Posted by Todd Weiden on
    • Nov 8 2012
    Casey- Killer article brother - very proud of you & proud to know you!! Thanks for setting a solid example & telling a story filled with TRUTH!!
      Posted by caseygraham on
      • Nov 8 2012
      I love you bro! Get fired up & let's listen to RATM soon.

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