A start-up begins its journey with the basic idea of solving one of the ‘N’ problems the world is facing. You ask any start-up founder in the ecosystem and he or she will tell you that problems are the opportunities and the guiding light for entrepreneurs to build solutions around. No one can solve problems overnight, and certainly not with just a blueprint. No one can solve the problem as an individual, and sometimes even a proper team would not suffice. Hence, in the ever-changing and rapidly growing start-up environment, it is very important for the management to recruit people who are enthusiastic about their organization’s vision and are self-driven to help it succeed.
You Must Believe in the Company’s Vision
Join a start-up only if you believe a 100% in the founders’ vision and company’s mission to solve the one problem that the start-up was founded for. If you have even 1% doubt in the vision, better discuss it with your company’s founder(s) immediately. People, who are deeply invested in the company’s vision, are self-motivated to help that start-up succeed.
Learn to Thrive in Chaos
There is nothing free in this world, absolutely nothing. The ongoing pandemic made people pay a heavy price for buying oxygen. Similarly, the idea of working with freedom in a start-up comes with a price in the form of working in chaos, and often without any established processes and structures. If you are coming from a well-established and an already highly organized work background, the idea of freedom and chaos of a start-up may sound exciting. And if you’re coming at a leadership position, you must make yourself ready to embrace chaos and have a plan to implement structure and process/s that can scale.
Go Beyond the Job Description
The biggest differentiator between a ‘performer’ employee and everyone else in a start-up depends on a single factor – the way they treat their role. Performers see their roles as an opportunity to build a career while everyone else looks at it merely as a job. All of us know someone in our circle, who once was a marketing guy but has become chief revenue officer or chief executive officer now; who once was responsible for finance function but has successfully become owner of legal and compliance function; who was one hired as a sales person but has become a business head in a large start-up or someone who was subject matter expert of one field but has gained significant knowledge of cross functions.
People who love working in the start-up environment will exhibit an intense sense of ownership over their responsibilities, and often beyond them as well. Start-ups give equal opportunity to all; if you look at your role beyond the job description and are deeply invested in the company’s vision, you are bound to be a performer and grow beyond imagination.
Know When to Pick Up the Phone
The idea of working in a start-up is to solve problems, and solve them quickly. If you engage in three rounds of back-and-forth emails with your stakeholders on a single matter without reaching common ground, it is time to pick up the phone. A phone call will resolve concerns more quickly than continuing to play the email game that may be going nowhere. This is true when dealing with both the internal stakeholders and the customers.
Take early chances (risks), learn quickly, and don’t be afraid to break things along the way
Amongst the key differentiators between an established company and a start-up is that the start-up needs to move faster (faster than ‘Fast & Furious’) and take more risks. It’s all about thinking positively – ‘How can I move one step further?”
Risk-taking, problem-solving and decision-making are three qualities one must possess to have a fruitful career in the start-up land. Working in a start-up means you are always in exploration mode and undoubtedly everyone is prone to making mistakes at some point. It’s never about how often you were right, but about how often you can learn from your mistakes and adapt to a constructive direction. The intention of learning from mistakes and the acceptance of being wrong are perhaps the two most important traits one must carry while working in a start-up.
Shred Your ‘Know-it-all’ Attitude, and Keep Learning
Many people join a start-up with hopes of reaching the top as quickly as possible, skipping past layered positions as they scale the corporate ladder, while the ones who actually grow are those who are always open to feedback and keen to learn. If you have great listening skills, chances are you are a good learner. If you listen to respond and not to learn, chances are you have that ‘know-it-all’ attitude.
Never forget what it’s like to be a beginner. Self-growth is key to living a fulfilling life and having a successful career. If you aren’t actively looking to learn new things and adding new skills, chances are you are easily replaceable in the start-up ecosystem. Most of us were, rather still are, fans of Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin became ‘The Sachin’ because he never stopped learning in his 20 plus years of long cricket career. Remember, the Master Blaster thwarted Australia’s strategies as he curbed his instincts and did not play a single cover drive shot in the 2003 Sydney Test and scored 241 in that Test match. Similarly, if you intend to grow fast in a start-up world, keep learning and never ever have that know-it-all attitude.
Whether or not you can thrive in the start-up ecosystem totally depends on your belief and your attitude. Just because you have previously worked in a well-established organization with highly organized work background, does not mean that you are not a fit in the start-up land. Similarly, if you are changing from one start-up to another, it does not guarantee you success at the new place. Always remember the old saying – All seeds don’t grow in all soils. If you believe in a collaborative approach, are willing to learn as a beginner, have a positive attitude, and are keen to solve the problem/s, there is no reason why you cannot be successful in fast-growing and ever-changing start-up land.
Images Designed by Freepik