This is the first post in a series on lessons I learned while starting a student group almost from scratch.
Far and away the most important factor in HEA’s success is that we had two co-presidents.
At first, it was just me running things, and my motivation and excitement about my plans came in bursts. I would get a new idea for a project or event and start organizing it in a flurry of energy—but soon problems would come up, I’d start to think it was doomed to failure and get demoralized, and everything I’d set in motion would grind to a halt. Obviously this was self-defeating and not very helpful for our club’s operations.
Fortunately, towards the end of the first year, John Sturm took the initiative and got involved with organizing events as well. With John to take care of half the organizational burden (and frequently more) and plug away even when I was demoralized, I felt much less overwhelmed about running things. This broke down my aversion that running more events would start another boom-bust motivation cycle for me, and allowed us to do way more things than we could have with just me.
If you’re more resilient to setbacks and more of a natural leader than I am, it may be less important for you to have a co-organizer. But given that finding a second person is also one of the most popular pieces of startup advice, it seems like it applies to most people, even if they’re as resilient and leader-y as most startup founders. So I’d recommend making it a high priority to find a co-organizer.
That’s hard, of course, because a co-organizer needs to have a lot of initiative and agency—they have to care about the project even when you don’t. On the other hand, if you can’t find any good co-organizers before you start your group, don’t worry too much—I didn’t know John before I started HEA, and only met him when he joined the group and came to some of our events. So you can probably recruit a co-organizer from your membership; just keep your eyes peeled for good ones, because it’s a huge boost in organizational capacity.