The Startup Life

As a Business Administration major in college, I learned a lot about how companies are run and prepared myself to become an all-star in “real life.” Although my education certainly taught me a great deal, looking back now I think my classes often left out a lot about the startup life. What is it like? How does it work?

Since I graduated, all the companies that I have worked for are still considered to be in the “startup phase.”  I’ve discovered four things that anyone who is considering the startup life should be aware of.

Responsibility: Employees often wear many hats

Even if you are hired for specific role at a startup, chances are that you will also be taking care of a lot of things outside of that role. At Paladin Software, I am what you would call a “Jack of all trades” – my closet is full of hats. My title puts me in the Account Management department, but I am also responsible for tasks in three other departments of the business. At a startup, flexibility is key, and there is no such thing as a comfort zone. Doing something you have never done before is certainly scary sometimes, but it is a great learning experience and it leads to fast personal growth.

Impact: Your success is the company’s success

Just like the company, the different departments at startups are usually small. Sometimes teams consist of only one person. Consequently, your performance will directly impact the performance of the company. Your success is the company’s success; however, the opposite is true as well. If you fail to do your job, no one else will be there to do it for you, and your failures become the company’s failures. Although that can sound like a lot of pressure, it is pretty awesome to see how the company directly benefits when you do a good job.

It’s not only your performance that will directly impact the business of a startup, but also your thoughts and ideas. When working on a small team, you interact with decision-makers on a daily basis. Your voice will be heard, and so will your clients.’ The feedback that we receive from our clients at Paladin Software is very important, and every idea we receive is discussed and taken into consideration. It’s these ideas that help shape our product roadmap.

Brand Awareness: Promotion is a priority

“What was the company you worked for again..?” When you’re employed by a small company, it’s not rare that you meet people who have no idea of what it is you actually do. Therefore, it’s important to practice communicating about the products and benefits that you offer, so that people you talk to can understand it and ultimately be able to tell others about it. Unless you are talking to someone who is familiar with your industry or type of product, it’s usually a good idea to follow the K.I.S.S. principle. It stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid,” and it means in this scenario that a simple story is more effective than a complex one.

After learning how to effectively talk about your company, it’s time to spread the word. Tell everyone you know and meet about all the cool things that the company is doing. Word-of-mouth is a no-cost, effective, and important tool for startups. Every employee contribution to marketing helps: social media posts, networking events, and speaking opportunities.

Change: The ability to adjust

If there is one clear advantage with having a small company, it is the fact that it’s fairly easy to make changes when necessary. With a short chain of command, and with fairly few people involved, a startup can rapidly fix something that isn’t working or adapt to changing industry conditions. This, again, requires employees to be flexible. At Paladin, changes in processes could be instant, while new product feature ideas can become reality in just a few days. Big companies might have more resources to spend on their new initiatives, but small companies can use their resources effectively and (hopefully) without lengthy processes.

The startup life might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s something that really suits me. The learning curve is steep, and it keeps me on my toes. If it’s important to you to truly see the impact of your work, and if you want a job that keeps you challenged (or if you just have a thing for hats), I would recommend the startup experience.


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Communicating with International Clients: A Guide to Success

A little over five years ago, I moved to Los Angeles from my hometown of 200,000 inhabitants in Sweden. Although Swedish culture and American culture are not polar opposites, I still suffered from a slight culture shock. While I tried my best to speak grammatically correct English, I had to get used to the American way of living and to strangers talking to me in the streets. Today my family calls me “Americanized,” and perhaps there is some truth to that.

Thanks to the Internet, I can not only speak with my Swedish family and friends on a daily basis, but also easily communicate with our international clients here at Paladin Software. The barriers to enter a foreign market for a business are significantly lower today than they were 20 years ago, and we are really excited to be working with companies from all over the world. However, while doing business across national borders presents a lot of opportunities, it also comes with its challenges. All of a sudden clients’ cultures and time zones vary greatly, and their interests and values might be completely different from yours. To set you up for a successful strategy, I’ve listed a few things to keep in mind for building strong relationships with international players in your industry.

Understand Key Cultural Differences

There are thousands of different cultures present in the world today, so it’s basically impossible to have a complete understanding of them all. However, the best way to start is to make sure you understand your own. Recognize what’s typical for your culture and what might differ in others. The next step is to read up on a culture before starting a conversation with a prospect of that particular culture.

Remember, something that’s popular in one culture might be less accepted in another. One example is small talk. While it’s not rare to have conversations with strangers such as grocery store cashiers here in the United States, people in my home country of Sweden often skip the small talk and only speak to others when ready to converse in-depth. Small talk in the beginning of a meeting can be favorable in some cultures, but seen as a waste of time in another.

If you work on a diverse team and have a coworker whose culture is more closely related to a prospect’s than your own, include your coworker in the conversation. You may make the person you want to do business with feel more at home. The more you can close the gap, the better.

Use clear language when writing and speaking

Most conversations in the global market are conducted in English. This is, of course, unless you and the prospect share another tongue that would make more sense for the discussion. As we all know, not everyone has English as their first language and this can cause language barriers when trying to do business with one another. To overcome these obstacles, and to make sure your point comes across successfully, try to follow these guidelines:

  • Always be clear and proofread everything
  • Ask questions to make sure you and the prospect are on the same page at all times
  • Stay away from yes or no questions, and instead ask questions that will keep the conversation going

There are both pros and cons to the fact that a lot of your business communication will happen in writing. It’s good because it gives everyone time to double check the messages, to make sure that their own make sense and that they understand the incoming ones. Drawbacks include the lack of other clues, such as tone of voice and/or body language, that could help you read the situation or get your point across. Therefore, schedule phone calls or video conferences on a regular basis, in addition to the email conversations. This helps us on the Accounts team at Paladin Software to build stronger relationships with our clients and to be of better support when needed.

In addition, it’s important for native English speakers to remember that their prospects’ English level might be much more basic than theirs. I can speak from personal experience – it wasn’t easy to keep up with my American friends when I just moved here. Therefore, pay extra attention to your word choices. Don’t use lingo that is too complex and will confuse the other party. It’s also likely that people from other countries do not understand your slang, acronyms, and abbreviations, so stay away from using these.

Business Mentality and Expectations May Differ

In the United States, it’s common for professionals to work around the clock. In other countries, however, the custom might be to work from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and then leave work behind when you leave the office. This can of course differ among industries, but make sure you understand what the norm is in the industry and country in question. Similarly, long-term relationships are very important in some countries, and closing deals fast might not be the way to go. A delay in reaching a decision does not necessarily mean that the people you’re talking with are inefficient or not interested, it could just be the result of a different decision-making process.

Recognize what it takes to build trust in the other culture, and understand the pace of their business world. If you have trips planned, try to schedule in-person meetings with potential clients in the area. It’s always preferable to meet face-to-face and establish a more personal relationship. Also, remember that even if communicating internationally might be challenging in the beginning, the more time you’ll spend talking with people from other cultures, the more you’ll learn and the easier it’ll get.

Lycka till! (Good luck!)

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If you’re looking for tools to help manage and scale your MCN, click to learn more about our Network Management Suite.

If you’re looking for tools to help find influencers for brand campaigns and network recruitment, the click to try our Talent Locator for 1 month free.

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