Ten Steps to Surviving a Start-Up
When reflecting upon my last 10 months in the auto industry I’ve found it necessary to write a short re-cap of what I’ve learned working for two different start-up companies, so that in the future those of you who find themselves working for a start-up, has some sort of step by step process to help you succeed.
The following 10 steps may not apply for every start-up, but the core lessons learned are here and can be tailored to your particular situation.
- When researching the company that has extended an offer to you. Make absolutely sure that you whole-heartedly believe in the product or solution the company has to offer. Don’t just simply take the job out of necessity, because all that is going to do is cause you more pain and potentially cause you to garnish your relationships with your current book of business. Unless you’re a self-proclaimed seller of ice to Eskimos, selling a product that you don’t necessarily believe in, is almost impossible to do.
- If you have found your way past step 1 and landed on step 2 then more than likely you are encouraged that the product and or solutions that the company has to offer is solid, but you still have some work to do. Do your due diligence and make sure that the people that you will be working for and with are on par with the people whom you normally like to surround yourself with. What I mean by this is simple. Before you take the offer of employment, research the CEO. Find out what he or she has done in the past. Are they cutting edge? Find out how the CEO has treated his or her employees in the past. Research the current staff that is in place, these are the people that you will be working with hand in hand on a daily basis. Find out how they handle themselves under pressure, because when you work for a start-up there are going to be days when the pressure can be insurmountable.
- So if you have found yourself on step 3 then you have completed some heavy research and have liked the results that you come up with. Now you need to see what processes the company has in place. Every start-up has a business plan that will include a process and or processes that circle around how the product or solution is to be sold, maintained, handled, and executed. Depending on the position that you have been offered these processes may vary, but the idea still stays the same. A company without a process/plan is like a car without wheels. The car may start, but I guarantee its not going to go nowhere.
- If you have made it this far you’ve probably established one of two things. You are either a good fit for the company or you’ve decided that the company may not be a good fit for you. So now you have reached the pivotal moment of truth. Do you take the job or do you pass on the opportunity for something better. If you have decided to take the job, then proceed on to the next steps.
- No matter what position that you have been hired for, more than likely you have been hired because you are a subject matter expert in a particular field that in some facet pertains to the companies plan. Now this is great because in some way you have established yourself in the industry as a leader in your particular field, but remember when you are hired on at a start-up you may or may not be asked to perform tasks that doesn’t pertain to your field. Now I am a firm believer that you should always be learning new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone is always a good way to broaden your intellect, but remember that you have been given a task and even though you may be asked to do other things to help the company, don’t loose site of what you were hired for in the first place. If you are not a seasoned at multitasking then I would say a start-up is not the place to further your career path.
- Staying motivated is key when it comes down to making or breaking the start-up. You not only need to be motivated 24/7 but you need to learn how to motivate others as well. When working for a start-up you can almost guarantee that there are going to be days when you feel like licking your wounds and going home. Being motivated and motivating others through these rough patches can really make a difference when you or one of your colleagues are having a bad day.
- Being persistent is always a good trait to have, but when working for new start-ups persistence really plays a key role in business development. A new start-up has a core business plan with a product and or solution they want to present to the core audience. The only problem is sometimes the niche needs crafted into a diamond and that comes from persistence. You have to constantly take your core product or solution and evolve it into something that is constantly making sense to your audience.
- Don’t be afraid of change! No matter what industry you are in, you have to be able to adapt to change. In order for a new start-up to survive, change is has to be a constant and if you are not susceptible to an environment that is always changing then destination frustration is just right around the corner and its going to reach out and smack you square in the face. There is a great book that I read a long time ago called “Who moved my cheese?” that I recommend all young business students and anyone who is thinking about joining a start-up or starting a business of their own read. The book really puts into perspective how important it is to be able to adapt to change.
- No matter how well you think you may be doing, you always need to have reports to back up your results. This can be simple excel sheets or ornate, robust power points with pie charts, bar graphs, or whatever you seem fit to show your progress. Having these reports, whether they are asked for or not can really be great tools to not only help you develop, but help the company develop as well, because when its all said and done results are the only thing that matter when it comes down to getting the start-up off the ground.
Last but not least, put in the time! Working for a start-up is not a 9 to 5 job. Be prepared to start early and work late, because you are going to have deadlines that need to be met and depending on how many projects have been assigned to you, you always have to make sure everything is done right, and done on-time, which may require you to put in more hours than what you initially thought would take to get the task completed.
Please remember that I am basing these steps on what I have learned working within the auto industry, but can be used and adapted to whatever industry that you may be in. The core principles are the same, just try to follow these steps and I am sure you too can survive a start-up.
If you have any questions or would like to comment on this article, please feel free to do so, also if you feel the need to share I welcome you to share with your networks and pass on what I have learned.