About 8 months ago I serendipitously got a call about a job working for a Milan based Start Up from a Blog Post I wrote about my experience coaching American Football in Italy. One that has provided me with such an experience and lessons learned.
There are many lessons I have learned and many more to learn along the way. But a few key takeaways to share for those looking at joining a start up or want to join a start up.
1. The ability to move quickly
By now it is well documented that most likely if you work in a start up you will have to wear many hats under your job title or specialty. And some that you have to just learn by doing. Know that you have to multi-task and be able to pivot projects quickly. See the plan is usually (or in my case) still developing a bit as you go. You have to test ideas and sometimes they don’t work and you need to be able to pick up and keep running quickly to get things done on time!
2. Things do NOT always go as planned
As you test or when you think you know what is going to work and resonate with your clients… and then it doesn’t… this is sometimes all too familiar. Sometimes you need to take a step back and really listen to the market and what your customers want. Things will not go as planned, sales will be shaky at times, content will not turn out the way you want, it might not get received or reposted like you thought. That is okay, it is all a learning experience. The KEY here is to NOT make the same mistake twice and really learn from it.
3. Communication with team is KEY!
It is VERY easy to get caught up in the large To-Do list on your desk. Many of your co-workers like you are going, going, going and maybe in and out of the office. It is important to work as a team and have cross functional communication weekly (if not daily) to ensure that everyone is driving at the same goal. Remember how you must pivot quickly? If you pivot and your team doesn’t, well you will be running in different directions and that could cause problems.
4. Do not be afraid of Criticism. It is how you learn!
There are many successful start ups, many start up gurus, and many very successful people that have been there and done that, and they can really help you. Do not be afraid to 1) ask for help form your mentors or your network. Odds are someone will be in the same position as you and might have the answer you need now and can help you propel your business. And 2) remember that even though you envision something in your head, it may not be how the business partners and/or consumers respond, make sure you have other people ‘criticize’ it for you to ensure that you are always creating great content. I had a fantastic Professor of Innovation at MIP Politecnico di Milano, Roberto Verganti, who wrote a great article about The Innovative Power of Criticism for the Havard Business Review, you can access the article from Power of Criticism.
5. You will get frustrated, keep moving forward!
Along the way, as with anything in life, you will have frustrations, roadblocks, things you don’t agree with stand in your way. That is part of the deal, you have to learn how to adapt, partner, and work to overcome any and all obstacles in your way. Remember the goal of working in a Start Up is to taking a new business and drive it to be a Market Leader. And to do that you have to experience the ups and downs that come along with it. It is very important that you do as Walt Disney always said, ‘Keep Moving Forward!’
Working in a start up has taught me a lot, and I love the ability to try new things, grow a business, and help see something through completion that you implemented. In my experience the flexibility has been one of the things I like the most and has given me the ability to chase down my passions. Know that some days though, you have to work late hours to get those projects done and even though there is the “Start Up Cool” stigma, you still have to put in the work!
Work in a start up? Let me know some of the great lessons you have learned or advice you want to share. I know there are many, many more lessons out there!