DISCLAIMER: One thing you should know about being an entrepreneur is that there really is no such thing as “a typical day”. Every day brings a brand new challenge, perhaps some firefighting to do, a scandal to manage, a last-minute deal to secure… Hence in no way does this post reflect accurately on my daily routine. At best, it gives you a rough idea of the average pace and rhythm of a startup founder’s life.
ABOUT ME: I am an entrepreneur-dad. So as much as I like to, and I should, spend 24/7 working, I always try to make time for my wife and my 3-year old daughter, who is now at an age where she is starting to appreciate my presence. Since March I have been flying between Singapore and Taipei every week as we are launching our school in Singapore. I spend 18 hours on the road every week, which is of course not ideal. I try to live close to work so I don’t waste anytime on commuting. In both Taiwan and Singapore, my offices are just 5-10 minutes walk from where I live.
Here’s a breakdown of a day in my life (when I’m not busy travelling, that is):
Get up to reply to my e-mails and set the plan for the day. I review my goals for the week, and re-prioritise my schedule if needed. This part of the day is very important to set my whole day right.
7: 30 am
Properly wake up, shower, get coffee – all the normal morning rituals. When I am home, this is also when I wake up my three year old for school, dress her, make breakfast, and drop her off school. As anyone with a three year old knows, this process could take anything from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on my luck, the weather, and how enthusiastic my kid is feeling.
Side note: be good to your parents.
My precious little girl!
Meet with Juno, my Executive Assistant (EA) to set my priorities for the day. (Side note: I highly recommend Founder CEO to recruit a capable EA if you have over 8 team members. As a startup CEO, time is your scarcest resource; you always need to be thinking about how to best manage and optimise your time. Juno manages my time the same way my Finance Director manages the company’s money. Your EA could also support you on tasks and projects that do not naturally fall into the scope of your functional teams: marketing, BD, or engineering teams. Juno has been a God-sent to me.)
I spend some time with my teams on some of the most important projects at hand: student recruiting in Singapore, the class experience in Taiwan, partnership pipelines, etc.
Sometimes team meetings are used for birthday celebrations!
I try not to schedule meetings in the morning, but instead spend time replying to emails from potential students and subscribers, as well as jumping on interview calls with our bootcamp applicants. I used to interview every bootcamp applicant myself in the first 18 months but it eventually became impossible. If possible, I strongly encourage every founder to read and reply emails from your users personally.
Lunch is usually spent eating alone at my desk, catching up on emails or news from the tech/startup community. Lunch is also a good time to meet up with potential partners.
Donning a mask when catching the flu.
Monday afternoon is for our weekly team meetings. We review our progress from the last week and set goals for the week. I try to meet with my team quite regularly. Since we have a flat hierarchy in the startup, everybody is in the loop with what everybody else is doing and picking up the slack for one another. In my experience, aligning goals and vision is the most important job of a startup CEO.
I drop by our DBS Hotspot workshop for startups, making sure the teams are engaged and the speaker is provided with coffee and water. Education is about experience, and details matter for everyone.
Inbound Marketing workshop by HubSpot for DBS HotSpot teams
External meeting with our partners. Today is a meeting with IDA (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore) to finalise the partnership terms on the Tech Immersion & Placement Programme we offer together.
Rushing in an Uber to the Sentosa World Resort Convention Centre to speak at SLUSH Singapore. I typically do not encourage founders to attend conferences unless your clients/users/partners will be there. Speaking engagements are very helpful if the audience is right; as the Founder, one of your most important jobs is to tell the story of your company, and these forums can potentially be a great place to do that.
6:30 – 7:30 pm
Dropping by campus to attend evening programs. Every week, we usually host 1-2 evening workshops or classes. I also host office hour for our students and alum who need guidance and support for their careers and startups.
Reviewing the work from one of our alum; watching our alum grow and develop is one of the most rewarding experience of starting ALPHA Camp.
If I am not travelling, this time is exclusively for family! Dinner, play time, shower, bedtime stories. Watching your own child develop and learn new things is one of the most rewarding experiences as a human being. If I am traveling, this is also a good time to catch-up on email, host business dinners, or go for a jog.
Team dinner is an important part of creating bond within the team and with our partners
After putting my daughter to bed, I continue working until just past midnight to catch-up on emails and think about longer term strategy for ALPHA Camp. I actually really enjoy working late at night, in the absence of inbound email, Facebook messages, or any other disruption. It’s a good time to focus and think for the future.
Bedtime. Good night world!
Some final thoughts:
To me, spending time with your users and team is the most important activities as a founder. As your startup grows, your focus as the founder will also change. In our first year, ALPHA Camp was a team of three; by the second year, we had six. Now in our third year, we have almost 20 staff including part-timers and interns in both Singapore and Taipei – the company has really grown way beyond its original foundations and my control. Now, my top priority is not necessarily doing the execution myself, but rather, I spend a lot of time guiding and mentoring my team.
Being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things I have ever done, and trying to achieve a good balance between my family, my health, and the business was difficult. I believe I’ve been successful in managing the commitments of both my family and the business, but after gaining over 10 Lbs in the last year, I am also considering to start proactively managing my health again. Building a company is a marathon.
There really is no single ‘typical day’ for a startup founder. It’s all a blur of roller-coaster ride, but that’s precisely what’s exciting about this journey!
Interested to start your own company but don’t know where to start? Check out ALPHA Camp’s workshops and offerings!