Ironically, there are many similarities between the corporate world and the start-up world. Both have the same ends in mind: to be the best and grow. However, the means to these ends are very different.
Deadlines, meetings, growth goals, rigid rules, compliance, departments… Does this sound familiar? Large corporations are the bittersweet norm in our country today.
There is a ladder to be climbed in the corporate world. If you’re not climbing, you’re stagnant. Everyone is climbing the ladder, and the ladder gets smaller and smaller as you approach the top. For a while, I thought climbing the ladder was my destiny. It was secure in the sense that your next step is planned; simply take the next step on the ladder. However, what happens if there isn’t the next step on the ladder? What happens when you get to the top?Striving as a young professional, I thought the corporate structure would give me the sustainability and experience I needed to later go work on my own, but I quickly realized that is not the case. As I was chugging along my secure and planned-out career, I received a random call from Webconnex wanting me to join their team. I remember some of the first things one of the cofounders said to me before hiring: “There are no annual reviews, no meetings and if you are looking to feed your ego in your accomplishments, this is not the place for you.” I was stunned at the difference from the corporate setting I was used to!After seeing the culture of this team, I was certain I wanted to switch paths. To be honest though, it was a little nerve-racking to actually make the switch. I was venturing from something “secure” to a path unknown. Here’s what I’ve noticed about company culture in my transition from the familiar corporate world to the radically different start-up lifestyle:
Team not Hierarchy
Since we are a small team, we must work as a team or else we fail. It is important each member pull their own weight or we cease to move forward. We each uniquely contribute to the overall team. This is why we are able to have no hierarchy. You have the ones who started the business, the ones who have been here for a while, and the newcomers on board. Though there is a difference of time invested in the company, we each need each other to succeed in the goal of the business. The ones who have started the business need the newcomers as much as the newcomers need the starters of the business. We are each more or less puzzle pieces that fit together to create the essence of the business.
As a start-up, it is very critical whom you hire. You need self-motivated people who will take initiative, seek out opportunities, and meet needs when they arise. These people do not drain from the team, they add to it. They do not wait to be told what to do, but constantly are working to help move the business forward. They are focused, passionate, driven individuals who do not waste time in office drama but who see the bigger picture and goals of the business and want to contribute. Whom you hire can make or break your business.
Climbing Versus Creating
Because we are a start-up, there is no more ladder. There are no predetermined steps for progress. There is only creation. You create your own opportunity. You create your next step; and what I have learned is that creation is more freeing than climbing a ladder. The poet William Blake once said, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” Though it can be scary to create because of the unknown outcome, if you don’t create, you fall in the box of someone else’s system. Sometimes that box is secure and safe, but sometimes that box becomes suffocating.
Trust versus Control
Trust is crucial for a team to flourish. Without trust, these other aspects would not exist. We depend and rely on each other to consistently fulfill our individual roles. If one fails to pull their own weight, it will offset the balance and trust of the other team members. Since your team is made of “battery-charged people,” you do not need to whip them to move faster, you only need to steer them in the direction you desire to go.Don’t get me wrong, the corporate atmosphere has succeeded for years and continues to be successful; however, creativity and individuality becomes null and void when growth goals become the emphasis. The work environment becomes stale when production and numbers are the focus. The “why” of the business becomes lost when the attention turns solely to “output.”
Start-ups are about creating dreams and achieving those dreams. Corporate is about maintaining the dream that has been won. While different people thrive in each environment, I know I’ve found my place in the unique lifestyle of working at a start-up.