Three tips for transitioning from an enterprise to a startup

- Entrepreneurial Skills

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by Federico Cayrol

In September of 2016 I made one of the most important decisions of my life, I left my career in a multinational software company to be part of a very new Startup (SimpliRoute).

The change was huge. I learned about how a new company works and re-learned other lessons, like how the context changes, the sense of urgency changes, and, above all else, how the relationships with co-workers change, it was a change for the better.

A startup (usually) is a small company with an innovative product. The work’s dynamic pace radically compared with my  big former employers and sometimes this change could be scary or overwhelming.

Based on my experience, I thought I’d share some tips to make the change not so difficult.

Startup Change #1: “Hello! I’m your CEO!”

How many times did you have the opportunity to speak face to face with the CEO of your company? How many times did you tell him or her that idea you had of how to take company to the next level? And if you did, how many seconds it take for your name to be forgotten?

Do not take it too personally.  Meeting with people and making contacts is one of the many tasks that a CEO of a company, who can meet hundreds of people a year making it natural that  your name may not be a priority.

In a startup you are more likely to work with your CEO side by side, talking even several times a day. This is someone willing to listen to your ideas, that’s probably one of the reasons they hired you.

Very often we create unnecessary distances between people who work with us simply because of their Roles. Let me tell you a secret, CEOs are people too, have problems, defects, virtues and humor.

Connect with all the people you can and participate in as many events as you can. One of the most important things about a job is not the experience you get but the people you know, especially in a startup.

Startup Transition Tip #1

Startup Change #2: “In my old company we use to do it this way.”

It is very common to try to solve similar problems with old recipes, and there is nothing wrong with that, except that what worked in a traditional company does not necessarily work for a startup. In addition it is very common to find practices that served as “shields” to protect us from eventualities, especially if you have not had good managers.

A startup will die without innovation, and its people are the innovators. Do not expect the co-founders to have the answers to all the problems. The founders have the vision and it is everyone’s job to carry forward this vision.They are going to rely on the people — that means you! — who work within company.

Do not try to copy what other startups are doing, their context can be very different too, ask yourself every day how a small group of people can make a difference. Teamwork, the essence of innovation, is to improve something that is probably already working but if we adjusted some screws it can be even better.

Propose improvement ideas all the time, try what you didn’t have the chance to implement in your old company, do it and learn about it, a startup that does not innovate does not last for long.

Startup Transition Tip #2

Startup Change #3: “No more departments, meet your peers.”

It is very common to find silos, hierarchies and departments that divide how a big company is organized. In my case, a multinational travel company, there were separate departments for hotels, air, cars, framework, payments and more. I worked for six years in a single area and, except for a few exceptions, I never met the hundreds of people who were on the “other side.” This was a big mistake.

When these divisions are created we miss the opportunity to learn from lessons learned. It is more than likely that the people in the other department have already experienced the same issues you have, and not taking advantage of that knowledge is a great waste.

In a startup, there is no place for waste, it is very likely that a person fulfills more than one role. The “Marketing Department” could be that guy sitting only two seats to your right. Talk to him about what you do and become interested in what he does as well. The creation of synergy of work is essential in any company that needs innovation. And you can learn something new just about every day in a startup.

Do not create divisions where there aren’t any. A work environment should allow members to share their opinions, ideas and concerns, not only with their manager but with their peers.

Startup Transition Tip #3

Now I want your advice. Have you been through a similar situation? What have you learned when transitioning from a big corporation to a fledgling startup? Share your experience in the comments below!

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