We glamorize the life of a founder--the big picture idea person who creates something big out of nothing. They lead a team with vision and bold thinking, guiding a ship from the helm.
That certainly seems to be what people believe--because I can't tell you how many founders are surprised when they find out how much of the job is... well...
So much of what you wind up doing as the founder of a company is dealing with a seemingly endless pile of boring crap. You're pouring over legal documents, traffic analytics, hundreds of resumes, signing up for things, looking up available domain names, getting domains to propagate, hours and hours of e-mail.
I once had to categorize 65,000 job titles into categories of similar jobs that made some sense--because, you know, a managing director isn't the same as a funeral director.
Obviously, you need to have a great idea, but that's pretty much where my own skill as a founder ended. I am a terrible executor of small administrative details and so not only was I surprised at how many there where, I felt like it emotionally dragged me down as well.
Being in a startup was supposed to feel freeing relative to a corporate environment--but the lack of resources and bench support didn't make it feel very freeing.
The key to getting over that is to get successful enough, early enough, to move things off of your plate. When Steve Jobs decided that the iPhone needed to be this thin, the job of executing it fell to a team of folks that included a guy that just tests glass strength all the time. Now there's a tedious job: Glass guy for the iPhone.
Sometimes I wonder if the key to success isn't so much in the big vision, but in figuring out how to get rid of the four or five things you really don't want to get stuck doing.