Episode 24: Exited Founder and Author of “Founder Therapy” on Successful Entrepreneurship without Burnout with Mike Buonaiuto

Jul 18, 2023 | podcast | 0 comments

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You can find a link to the full transcript for this episode HERE.

This week on the show I’m introducing you to Mike Buonaiuto, exited founder and author of the recently released book, Founder Therapy, which was born out of his own experience with burnout and the healing journey that followed. This book aims to help founders, and other leaders, how to make an impact without burning out or damaging your mental health along the way.

Mike is a philanthropic business leader and performance coach, who founded, scaled and exited Shape History, the award-winning social impact agency. ​ He’s currently a senior advisor; helping companies nurture their people, navigate growth and negotiate pivotal moments of transformation.

His book Founder Therapy was published June 2023 and explores why founders are more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and burnout. His TEDx talk, ‘No wonder people are quitting – business must do better’ was selected and featured by TED’s Editor picks. Mike supports Virgin Startup as their ‘Entrepreneur In Residence’ and NatWest’s Business Accelerator as their ‘Business Startup Coach.​’

What was interesting is also how comforting I felt being busy. It’s not just a thing of losing out on revenue or losing out on opportunity if you haven’t got your laptop open at 10 or 11 o’clock at night. It’s that it didn’t feel comfortable without my laptop open because I therefore wasn’t being productive. Through therapy, and now with other founders, I dive into what are our drivers and triggers that make us what we call the profitable poisons.”

In this conversation we explore Mike’s own journey as an entrepreneur, including an experience with burnout that almost cost him his life. We also discuss the inspiration behind writing his book, why its essential for founders to care about their own mental health, and that of their team, and how founders and leaders can innovate without burning out along the way.

TW: In this episode there’s a mention of suicidal ideation so please decide if this is the right episode for you or not.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Mike’s own mental health struggles that nearly cost him his life and ultimately led him to write his book, Founder Therapy
  • The research by Dr. Michael Freeman about entrepreneur mental health that inspired the book
  • His thoughts on how we can change the perception around failure in the entrepreneur world
  • What he means when he advises founders to not “Build a Beautiful Cage”
  • His words of wisdom for anyone who thinks financial success isn’t compatible with prioritizing mental well-being

Find Mike Online:

FOUNDER THERAPY: 50 Lessons To Start, Scale & Sell Without Wounding Our Wellbeing 

In partnership with NatWest, Unrest and Founders TabooFounder Therapy pulls together research from neuroscience, with experience from top-performing entrepreneurs, to present 50 lessons to start, scale, sell without wounding our wellbeing.

The book also presents the case for a proven link between effective stress-management and commercial success. It’s specific, due to my background, in comms and marketing business, particularly scaling and selling an agency. The project is in response to research from UCSF, linking higher rates of mental health issues to success-driven entrepreneurship.

Learn more about Mike’s book on his website

Get your copy of Mike’s book, “Founder Therapy” on Amazon 

Resources & Inspiration from the Show

List of resources to help you find a coach, therapist, or peer support If you’d like additional support for your mental and emotional well-being as a founder

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About Founders’ Fears & Failures and your host, Dr. Melissa Parks

Melissa is an entrepreneur, former therapist (PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology), and an executive coach for entrepreneurs with a special focus on startup founders. Her passion for supporting startup founders in particular began after witnessing firsthand the emotional rollercoaster her husband experienced as a startup co-founder.

She started the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast with the mission of shining a light on the mental and emotional challenges that come with life as a startup founder. Having lived abroad for 10 years herself she realizes how much we can learn from hearing stories from around the globe which is why the show doesn’t focus on a country-specific startup ecosystem.

Melissa is also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapist Community, and a mom to a toddler who keeps her on her toes, and fuels her passion for helping to make the world a better place.

If you are interested in coming on the show, please get in touch. We would love to hear your story.

Want to connect further? Get in touch with Melissa on social media:

Want to work with Melissa?

Melissa is a former therapist who provides executive coaching for entrepreneurs around the globe. Schedule your free discovery call HERE.

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Did you enjoy listening to this episode? Leave your review on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Disclaimer: The Founders’ Fears & Failures is for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be used for personal health advice and should not be construed to constitute personal or professional consultation or guidance, or to replace medical or mental health treatment. The opinions expressed by this podcast, including the podcast guests, are not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of a medical or mental health provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your medical and/or mental health needs. If you are in crisis, please visit this website to find a list of suicide hotlines around the globe. 


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I'm a therapist-turned-coach who loves working with clients around the world! I work with the globally mobile community to support them through transitions as well as entrepreneurs who need support navigating the rollercoaster of entrepreneur life.

I'm also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community, a mom, a self-compassion advocate, and an aspiring author.