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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