My journey as a start up employee!

Greetings all! It’s been quite sometime since I posted here I’ve been very busy with my new gig. Here are some of my observations of life in a start up.

I made a conscious decision about a year ago to shift gears in my corporate career. I had started to get into a bit of a rut and was becoming focused on the wrong things in my corporate life. Instead of looking at new challenges and growth opportunities to improve myself I had started to become immersed in internal politics and become dismayed when I saw others getting promotions that I felt I really deserved.

I quickly came to the realization that that wasn’t a healthy behavior and there was no point in spending the rest of my working career in such an environment. Sure if I was I in the last couple years of my working life I probably could’ve just coasted on in that manner but given I have the better part of my working career ahead of me I made the decision that an exit would be a sensible thing.

Earlier in the year, I made the decision to quit my interesting by unrewarding role in a large corporate and switch it up for a role in a new start up organization within a relatively large organization. I must say that eight months in the journey has been highly stimulating and fulfilling and I’m pleased to say that I don’t regret the move in anyway.

Life in a start up business is very different from working in an established corporation. I guess that’s obvious, but I didn’t fully appreciate the nuances of Start Up life until I took this role. I guess the biggest difference I’ve observed compared to traditional corporate life is that I just have no time for politics. I am completely focused and obsessed on executing my current role to the best of my abilities and really haven’t should’ve thought about what the other political dynamics are that are paramount or present in the broader organization.

So what have I observed?

Responsibility and role definitions mean little. I have probably change the scope of my role at least twice within the last eight months that I’ve been on board. Because work streams and scope change so rapidly in a start up organization, being adaptable and being a utility player is very important. Also an ability to respond and step up your game at a moments notice is very important.

You could be in charge of partnership development one moment, and then have much broader responsibility for sales and business development the next. I know because that’s what happened to me! Capable utility players that have an ability to execute will find themselves increasingly being given greater scope and responsibility then the those who are unable to execute. The unique thing about working in a startup is that it’s a great leveler. There’s really nowhere to hide. If you’re ineffective you can’t really curry favor with anyone to protect you or push your interests to the extent that you can in a larger established organization where you’re one in a sea of minions. I quite like that about working in a startup.

You get rewarded for getting shit done! I had almost given up on corporate America as being a place where things happen, results are driven and performance is rewarded. In fact in most of my previous I had only seen people who were favorites with leadership being given upward mobility almost to the detriment of wanting to achieve real results. Being in a startup organization where you just have to get shit done has been a very refreshing change for me. It’s made me motivated to drive results because I can more tangibly see my impact on the progress of our business. That was something that was sorely lacking to me previously as being one in a ocean of people.

Be prepared for lots of change. We’ve probably done at least two minor tactical pivots in execution in the time that I’ve been with this organization. That’s meant projects have been cut, resources have been re-prioritized, and certain pursuits have just been shut down. We are living proof of  rapidly test, experiment, and change what’s not working culture.

Hiring really sharp people is more important than hiring the right person for a specific role. I know this sounds a little ridiculous but hiring intelligent, adaptable utility players is a really big deal. Because you need to be adaptable and the scope of your role and responsibility may change in the early days of a start up, hiring intelligent creative and motivated people is more important than hiring the right individual for a specific role.

We are currently living through some of the consequences of having made specific hires for really specific things and finding that these individuals can’t be repurposed or redeployed for other areas of focus. Hiring is also super important with an emerging business. In a larger corporation you can afford to get a few hires wrong and not be too affected, however in a small organization this is a really big deal because those individuals have nowhere to hide and others need to pick up the slack pretty quickly. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable for all concerned.

Overall I’ve learned a lot about myself in this role. I’ve learnt that being able to drive real results and make an impact is something that I thrive on. In fact I’m not sure how easily I’ll be able to move into a more traditional role in a fairly large enterprise again. Wasting away shuffling powerpoint decks from person-to-person, team to team is not really a very rewarding endeavor in hindsight.

While I didn’t think very much of it at the time I think it would be difficult for me to go back to something like that again. I have also now realized that there’s a lot of innovation theater in these large organizations. Appearing to effect change whilst really preserving status quo is actually the mandate of most large managers at established organizations.

That’s a fairly depressing realization because it gives you a sense of what the outlook is for most traditional, stodgy businesses in corporate America. Those that don’t have an ethos of trying to affect real change are probably destined to be roadkill by the next innovative business that comes along. I’ve also seen firsthand that it’s easier than ever to spin up something new in a rapidly short amount of time.

I’ll try to provide some additional color and updates on my start up journey as it progresses however suffice to say that things are moving along just about as well as I could’ve expected at this stage in my journey.

Speak Your Mind