I look the plunge, because I wanted to experience life at a smaller company. To see what it would be like to help develop and drive a culture from the ground up and work with people with different backgrounds and experiences to broaden my perspective and business acumen.
Mostly though, I wanted to leave my comfort zone and test myself in new ways.
The last two years have been amazing, exceeding my expectations. The company has achieved a lot, I have learned a lot and the best is yet to come.
Since I made the move many people have asked me about life at a startup. Do I suggest they make a similar transition? For me, personally, startup life is great. But it may not be for everyone.
If you are thinking of taking the startup plunge, here are five realities to be prepared for.
1. You will do more with less.
If you are making the transition from a medium or large sized business to a startup, it is highly likely that you won’t have the resources you are accustomed to. This comes in the form of dollars but also people resources. Some people thrive in situations where execution comes through leadership of large teams and strong partnerships with agencies, vendors and contractors. This is a luxury you won’t have at a startup (at least an early stage one). At a startup, you’ll need to focus on what you do best and figure out a way to maximize your resources to amplify those efforts. If you think any task is "beneath you," you won’t make it. You need to be willing to get your hands dirty at every level of the business.
2. You must exit your comfort zone.
What makes startup life fun is everyone banding together to create a dent in the universe that doesn’t exist yet. To achieve such an ambitious mission there are times when you need to take an “all hands on deck” approach. When these instances spring up, you need to lean into parts of the business you have little to no experience in to help others hit their goals. Embrace this challenge for the opportunity it presents: a chance to broaden your perspective and understand how different parts of the business operate.
3. You need to be prepared to fail fast.
Part of what makes startup life tick is the ability and willingness to try new things. In some cases, you will hit the right note right off the bat. Other times you will fail. You must be able to move on instead of draining time and resources to save a sinking ship. Stumbles happen. Get up, shake it off and keep moving forward. The most valuable commodity in life is time, because it is the one thing you cannot buy more of. For this reason you need to maximize your ability to save valuable hours and minutes by moving on quickly from any setbacks so you can continue to experiment.
4. You must be ready to fall in love with ambiguity.
At a startup it is all about doing the right things, at the right time, with the right people. You need to be flexible and be ready for things to change at the drop of a hat. If you are entering a highly disruptive space be ready for market, industry and competitive changes to modify your priorities. At times this comes with ambiguity. Embracing ambiguity helps ensure you are always in a position to evolve and win, ready for anything.
5. You need to be patient.
A few months back, I wrote a piece detailing why the journey is the reward. You must be joining for the right reasons and not simply for cashing out, an exit strategy or becoming the world’s biggest company. Most startups don’t make it. Approach your first day with a high degree of patience. It will take a lot of hard work, wins and losses, ups and downs to truly build something special. Be patient and don’t sell yourself short on the experience.