6 Things We’ve Learned From Working On A StartupBy Benjamin Seidman on June 9th, 2015 /
Exiting college an English major and with a certificate of entrepreneurship, I was not exactly an “ideal” candidate for a finance or consulting gig, nor did I want that. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself (a startup) and learn how to make ideas happen. I quickly learned that there is an ocean of entrepreneurial knowledge. There is always more to learn about tech, venture capital, bootstrapping, teamwork, lean startup theory – you name it. For me, the lifestyle keeps me at the edge of my seat, eager for what the next day will bring and how we’ll tackle it. And I’m one for adventures.
Now working in sales at Locqus, I’m afforded the opportunity to be a part of a dynamic, savvy, and driven team, working to disrupt the field service management industry. We’re now 20 employees strong, huddled in the Bizdom startup accelerator on Detroit’s M@dison Block, working to empower paper-based businesses by equipping them with our business management software. The entire team has learned countless lessons that have shaped both our professional character and the Locqus product. Personally, I’ve learned that the key to sales, at a startup, is the importance of understanding your customer, the industry, and your competition. Another valuable lesson I’ve encountered is one’s purpose. One is not simply “in sales” or “in customer service,” but each individual has a platform to be an intrapreneur, a testament to the culture the founding team has established.
Now, let’s hear what the rest of Locqus has learned from working on a startup. Here are six things our team has learned so far.
1. There Are Many Hats To Be Worn
When joining a startup very early on, there are often many roles to fill and limited resources to do so. At Locqus, this was the case for Scott Kirschner, who was hired as a Customer Service Representative but went on to fulfill responsibilities in financial areas, sales, supply chain management, and operations. “There are many hats to be worn and that’s one very cool thing about working at a startup. You really get to dabble into every single side of a business,” says Kirschner. Find what you are best at because what you are hired on to at a startup isn’t necessarily going to be what you will be doing, advises Kirschner. And that’s a good thing.
Many of Kirschner’s colleagues joined a large corporation directly out of college. In his experience, Kirschner believes that the corporate environment can limit one’s professional experiences by focusing people on a repetitive task. However, he says, “here we get to see how all of the cogs and gears turn and change and we actually get to manage that, and it’s very exciting.” His experiences here and the conversations he takes part in with influential people will go a lot further in life than taking a higher paying job out of college.
2. Patience Is Even More Of A Virtue Than You Thought
When starting to work at a startup, you must have patience. Nothing is going to be an overnight success. Everybody thinks that a startup goes shoots up from the backyard garage to wall street overnight, but there’s a lot of pivoting. A lot of research and time went into making small decisions so have patience when you start working at one.
Becca Polanski, Customer Service Representative/Account Manager, insists that patience is vital. “At startups, there can be a lot of new growth and opportunity, but it does take time and patience.” Becca says that you really have to work well with the rest of your team. “It’s worth the challenge.” Polanski says. Startups are a challenge, but there is a lot of reward.
3. Rising To The Top Is On You
At a startup, you can start at a bottom of the barrel position and work your way up because there is that opportunity, which might not present itself at a larger corporation. “I’ve had corporate jobs in the past with large and global companies and working at a startup is a lot more fun,” says Polanski. Startup atmosphere is more relaxed, the people can be a lot of fun to work with and it’s oftentimes more rewarding than working for a larger corporation because of the impact you can have. There’s way more room for growth and opportunity within the company. Take it, it’s yours.
4. You Need To Discipline Yourself
Working at a startup, you need a lot more discipline than working at other jobs where your work might be neatly assigned with more defined tasks to complete. Catherine Santrock, Customer Service Representative/Account Manager, believes that it’s more of you identifying what needs to be done and doing it. Nobody is going to tell you, “We need this to be organized.” It’s more like “This needs organization and I’m going to do it because nobody else has the time.”
“That’s the one thing I’ve noticed,” says Santrock. “You don’t really have someone keeping track of what you’re doing everyday. You have to force yourself to figure out what needs to be done and do it.” For someone just starting off at a startup, it’s probably more relaxed than what they are used to. That’s why working at a startup can empowering, because most of the time you are the one holding yourself accountable.
5. At A Startup, You Matter A Lot
In a startup environment, your contribution directly affects the destiny of the company. Briant Campbell, Locqus Senior Developer, believes that working at a startup is not a decision to be made lightly. “People are truly counting on you so if you have the mindset of a blue collar or a white collar job, where you might just be putting in hours to get the check, you’ll be letting people down,” says Campbell.
What oftentimes is the case at startups is that the company founders will defer their own salary. Your productivity can directly affect their livelihood. However, this should not be seen as an entirely bad thing. It’s a motivator. With working at a startup, you have the opportunity to labor more creatively than ever before. You matter. Embrace the gravity of that.
6. Startups Build The Processes For Corporations
At startups, you build the systems that will eventually fuel a larger and more stable company. “Eventually your startup will become the dreaded corporation that you didn’t want to work for,”says Derrick Quandt, Account Manager “and I don’t think a lot of people realize that.” Coming in early and staying late is great because work needs to get done but eventually a successful startup is an established business that has process. “A startup that remains a startup is a company that hasn’t progressed,” said Quandt.
“If you’re a founder, keep exit in mind and build what it takes to get there. If you’re technical talent, you will experience growing pains. Expect and prepare for this.” Also, don’t forget innovation can happen anywhere. Larger companies actually have more resources available and you don’t have to beg, borrow, or buy to make big things happen.
“It’s good to see both sides of the fence, so quit your job and join a startup,” says Quandt. “Although, you may never go back.”