As we discussed in our earlier post, working in a startup can be both exciting and challenging but you can hit the ground running. Success in this type of environment requires a combination of skills, traits, and attitudes and while it may seem challenging – with the right preparation and attitude, it is definitely doable.
Now let’s say you joined a startup and hit the ground running as well. What are the things you should do to guarantee a successful stint? To achieve the same, do the following:
“Wait what? I thought my founder was the entrepreneur?” Well yes. And a founder is always looking for more entrepreneurial folks! But what does being entrepreneurial mean from a job point of view? First, you probably are already comfortable with taking risks. (That’s why you joined!) Of course, this does not mean taking unnecessary or reckless risks, but rather being willing to try new approaches and take calculated risks when necessary. Second, you should constantly look for ways to innovate and improve. This means being open to new ideas and making research backed plans. And third, you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities. This means keeping an eye on emerging trends, identifying gaps in the market, and being open to new partnerships and collaborations. For example: Let’s say you work for a startup that provides online learning solutions for businesses. You identify an opportunity to expand the company’s offerings to include a new type of training module that has recently become popular in the market. You research the market and gather feedback from potential customers, and then pitch the idea to your team and your boss for approval. With their support, you develop and launch the new module, which (hopefully) will help the company increase its revenue and market share.
This is one of the most underrated and overlooked skills for success here. I mean I am good at what I do, so I can go a long way without strong communication skills. Right? Wrong. Successful startup folks are excellent communicators who can convey ideas and information extremely clearly and help build alignment, drive innovation, and accelerate growth. Let’s say you work for a startup that provides an AI-powered customer engagement platform for e-commerce businesses. As a marketing manager, you have been tasked with developing a growth strategy for the company that will help it expand its customer base and increase revenue. To develop an effective growth strategy, you need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with your colleagues and stakeholders, including the CEO, product development team, and sales team. For example, you could start by conducting market research and analyzing customer data to identify key trends and opportunities. Then, you could present your findings to the CEO and other stakeholders in a clear and concise presentation that highlights the most important insights and recommendations. Next, you could work with the product development team to identify ways to enhance the platform’s features and functionality based on customer feedback and market research. You could also collaborate with the sales team to develop targeted messaging and campaigns that highlight the platform’s unique value proposition and address the needs of specific customer segments. Throughout this process, you would need to communicate regularly with your colleagues and stakeholders to ensure alignment, buy-in and also conflict resolution for the growth strategy. This might involve setting up regular meetings or check-ins to discuss progress, sharing updates and reports on key metrics, and providing feedback and support as needed.
Successful startup resources are quite comfortable with multitasking and can handle a variety of tasks and responsibilities. And no, it does not mean watching IPL on one tab while coding! This may mean learning new skills or taking on tasks that are outside of your area of expertise. Let’s say you work for a startup that offers a SaaS product for small businesses. As the customer support manager, your primary responsibility is to handle customer inquiries and complaints. However, the company is going through a major product upgrade, and the developers need your help with testing and identifying bugs in the new software. Additionally, the marketing team is preparing for a major trade show, and they need your help to create some customer success stories to showcase at the event. To help with the product upgrade, you could work with the developers to create a testing plan and prioritize the most critical areas to test. To assist the marketing team, you could create a template for customer success stories and reach out to a few customers to gather their stories. You could also work with the design team to help create some visually appealing infographics to accompany the success stories.
Be resilient and persistent
Why? Because in a startup, not everything goes as per plan and setbacks are a natural part of the process. Successful startup folks are resilient and can bounce back from these failures and setbacks. In fact, most of them turn failures into opportunities for learning and growth and forge on with renewed energy. For example, let’s say you work for a startup that provides an HR SaaS platform for small business owners. As a customer support representative, you regularly interact with customers who are struggling to use the platform effectively. One day, you receive a call from a frustrated customer who is experiencing technical issues with the platform that are preventing them from completing an important project (Trust me, this does happen and happens a lot!). Despite your best efforts to resolve the issue, the customer becomes increasingly angry and ends the call abruptly. What would a resilient employee do? They will get to the root of the problem and reach out to the concerned teams for a fix. This might also involve seeking feedback and support from colleagues, reviewing customer support best practices and protocols. They will not be afraid to pick up the phone and reach out to the customer to further understand the issue and calm the customer down.
Learning mode on (Always!)
Startups are constantly evolving, and successful folks are always learning and expanding their skills and knowledge. Folks need to be able to adapt quickly and learn new skills and knowledge to keep up with the pace of innovation. One specific example of how continuous learning can save a startup from closing down or losing money is by staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. For example, let’s say you work for a startup that develops mobile apps. In the current scenario – bringing in AI related elements into the product seems like a necessity. And if your startup is not keeping up with this trend, it may risk losing market share to competitors who are already embracing this technology. However, if you are a continuously learning individual, you may have identified this trend early on and taken steps to develop your AI skills – with the huge amount of AI technology currently available in the market. As a result, you can help your startup stay ahead of the curve and capitalize on new opportunities in the market.
Know when to quit
And finally, a note on ending the story. Knowing when to quit and how to quit gracefully is also a sign of a successful startup resource. You can do all of the above but still find yourself at the end of your startup journey as the startup might not be meeting its growth targets. This could be due to a lack of funding, poor leadership, or an unsustainable business model but it would mean that it’s time for you to move on. How do you know it’s time to move on? You could be facing lack of Growth Opportunities and feel that your skills and knowledge are no longer being utilized or challenged. Your workplace could be becoming toxic, and if it’s impacting your mental health and well-being, it may be time for you to leave. You could also begin to feel a sense of mis-alignment with the company’s values or vision and as a result you may feel conflicted about your role in the company. If the startup is struggling financially or unable to secure funding, and there is a risk that the company may close down or lay off employees, it may be time to start looking for other opportunities. Or let’s say sometimes, personal circumstances may require you to leave a startup, such as needing to relocate for family reasons or health issues. Whatever be the reason, it is important to see the signs and take a call. If you can – Have a clear conversation with your boss, offer your support as much as you can and start looking out.
Embarking on a startup role can be one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling experiences of your professional career. It’s a place where, potentially, the impossible becomes possible. You work with like minded people to achieve targets and in the process you make great relationships and really upgrade yourselves for life. However, you need to do things differently from a corporate setup. You need to change the way you operate. You need to take initiative, be comfortable with ambiguity and make quick decisions with limited information – while being open to feedback, willing to change course quickly, being able to manage pressure and also remain calm (while doing all of the above!). How to do so? Identify with the cause and make it your north star. If you are really looking to make a difference, then a lot of the above will naturally flow for you.