I started my career working in a startup where I spent around five years. During that period, the company went public and did its IPO. I was a budding youngster looking towards a full-fledged career and needed a strong foundation. A lot of credit goes to those five years for whatever I am today. I was given a lot of responsibilities, got learning experiences to grow, to prove myself and to gain confidence. Here are the five valuable lessons I learned working at a startup in my initial years.
In an MNC or a large corporate, the most important responsibility is following a set of rules that were documented long before you joined as opposed to a startup, where you build it brick by brick, nurture it drop by drop, hire people, monitore them, pay the bills and bootstrap all the way to keep the budget in check. For me, a startup isn’t just an experience. It is what I would call, a real "on the job MBA". If you prefer learning experiences and are hungry for knowledge, working for a startup would be a great choice. There are a lot of exciting opportunities that you find where skills matter and not mere degrees. When you are a part of a small team, your contributions count and your mistakes are corrected at a much faster pace. You get a lot of personalized mentor ship from your boss which helps you grow faster.
Startups are mostly bootstrapped and the responsibility of managing an employee falls on the employee himself. You learn to take ownership of what you do. In my experience, youngsters excel when trusted with extra ordinary responsibilities. Startups are all about speed and how fast they implement ideas. You learn faster, fail faster and grow faster.
One person alone has never changed the world. That requires teamwork. Working at a startup can be quite stressful at times as you may have to work for long hours at a stretch. You never know what kind of challenges you'll face. Startup teams are small and close knit which make it easier to handle the stress, build better relationships and eventually excel.
Working at startups is never a cakewalk. There will be constant ups and downs and you will have to keep switching roles as per the demands of the situations. Your primary responsibility may be that of a sales guy but you may end up looking into marketing, accounts, HR, tech, etc. You won’t be working in siloes but as a cohesive unit where you may and often, will be asked to do tasks out of your domain of expertise. This makes one flexible as a professional and gives good insight into how businesses works.
Mark Zuckerberg has rightly said, “In a world that is quickly changing, the only strategy that is bound to fail is not taking risks.” When you work at a startup, you cultivate the art of taking calculated risks because everything is limited - from human resources to cash reserves. You have to put your resources to the best use and deliver.
Startups may seem like risks sometimes, but they are surely worth it. I firmly believe that the amount of hard work put in the initial years reflects positively in the long run. I left the startup after it went public and I have come a long way since then, working for many great organizations. Throughout my career and even now, I often look back to those five years during crucial situations when quick decisions and fast actions need to be taken.
In MNCs and corporate environments, you learn from their decades of business experience and best practices. You soak in the ready made processes and precisely crafted strategies. You get vast resources in terms of finance, HR, and cutting-edge technology which further enhance your growth. Startups on the other hand, teach you how to use the disposable resources to the best of their potential. This combination has helped me deliver year on year revenue growth greater than 100% on multiple occasions in my career.
"Work ethic" is one important value that one imbibes working at the startup. Combining the work ethic from startups with the resources of large corporate would produce what I would call - a perfect recipe for success !!
Himanshu is a transformative business leader with three decades of experience in the telecom industry. He is currently the managing director of Syniverse and has extensive experience working in MNC’s like Microsoft, IBM, and CISCO. He polished his management skills studying at the University of Chicago Booth school of business and INSEAD, an extensive education program in strategy, finance, and general business. He is also an angel investor and believes startups can solve the job crisis of India.