When working at a startup, you tend to learn a lot. You don’t only learn skills for the particular job you are doing, but you are learning a lot of soft skills as well. Here are some of the top things you learn when working for a startup.
1 – Deadlines are flexible
You should still try to adhere to them though. Unforeseen issues can always hamper deadlines, and as a startup you do not have the time to add buffers to your time planning. If you know that you might have to wait longer than expected, you are not surprised when a delay does occur, allowing you to quickly shift your focus to other work that also needs to be done.
2 – Embrace criticism
You will face a lot of it. You might as well make the best of it. Although criticism may at first not be constructive (“That will never work”), you can turn it into constructive criticism. Ask why the criticism arose – ask the person who criticised and understand the reasoning behind the criticism. What you make of the results is of course up to you.
3 – Time is valuable
Time is money, as they say. For startups, this statement is not strong enough. For startups, time is survival. Especially in the early stages of founding a company, the future is uncertain. You cannot be sure that funding goes through, you cannot know that you will land a huge deal next week ensuring survival for another three months. You need to use your time efficiently to maximise payoff. The longer you can put off bankruptcy, the higher your chances of becoming a profitable company.
4 – Sleep is a luxury
Granted, this statement may be overdramatic (unless you are a founder). Although chances are you work more than your typical 9-5 job, working hours tend to be acceptable, and do not
deprive you of sleep. Still, the constant stress you are under (be that due to important funding meetings or to looming bankruptcy, for example) is exhausting over time. Sleep is a welcoming escape from all the things you have been dealing with today and will deal with tomorrow.
5 – It pays to network
Did you know that a lot of the early customers of young startups are actually other startups or employees thereof? Early adopters tend to work in the tech sector as well – they are the most up-to-date concerning new tech products. By connecting with decision-makers with other startups, you can kickstart your company with some early sales. Apart from direct sales, networking is important in other ways too, of course. By being connected, you can stay ahead of what is going on in the industry. Who is hiring? Who is struggling? Who can you help out? Getting feedback and bouncing ideas off of people you are knowledgeable in your sector is very useful for improving your product and beginning something new (possibly finding a new job or even starting up a new company).
6 – Chaos is inevitable
Things get messy at the start. That’s just the way it is. You can be the most organized person in the world, but something will hit you from the side when you least expect it, and there is absolutely nothing you could have rationally done to avoid it. That’s fine though, because that makes things interesting, right? You cannot avoid the chaos, the art lies in winding through it and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Not that you’ll reach the end of the tunnel anytime soon, but seeing the light is comforting.
7 – You have to be flexible
You cannot be set in your ways when working at a startup. You need to be able to adapt rapidly. If you start out with an MVP (which you should), you will receive a lot of feedback on your product at the beginning. Let the user feedback adapt your product, even if it turns out different than what you wanted. Be flexible with regards to your working hours as well. If something needs to be done, you can’t just do it In fact, be flexible with everything you do, because in the end things will turn out differently than you planned them anyway.
8 – People like talking
Use this to your advantage if you can. Go to events, meet people for lunch, go to meetups and get people talking. You will always be able to learn something new, about your sector, about possible competitors, about new tactics. You will have to see through the bullsh*t that you will probably encounter. Once you learn to do exactly that though, you have a great asset.
9 – Persistence pays off
You just finished working on your great product. You’re proud, and rightly so. But now you have to convince other people of its greatness. They do not know how much work you have put into it. They have absolutely no idea about your product, what it does, why it’s better, why they need it. You have to sell it to them. And unless the product truly is revolutionary, you will face resistance. But keep at it. Keep grinding it out, keep repitching your leads. All those great companies you hear about in the news? Their founders did just that.
10 – Paid tools are nice, but free ones get the job done too
When you don’t have money, you get creative. There are some great and useful tools out there which can make your life easier. But a lot of those tools either have none or only limited free accounts. The price might even be very reasonable, but these small expenses tend to add up – and since they all run on a subscription basis, soon you’ll be surprised how much money you’re spending on small tools that make your job easier. There are many rudimentary tools
out there that can help you out to do the same thing you are paying for. Take some time to research if a free option exists before you commit yourself to a subscription. You may have to sacrifice small functionalities when using the free tools, but for all you stingy people out there – it’s a great feeling getting something for free that other people are paying for.