Hold onto your hats: a guide to surviving startup life

Business
Entrepreneur and their team work in startup. Notebook with a business plan, launch and progress and targets in hand and coffee cup, pen and desk.

Startups are chaotic. Unpredictable. Fun. Exhausting.

You’ve got to remember to take a breath every now and again. Because of the break-neck pace, the pressure can get to even the longest-serving small business veterans. But that’s doesn’t mean they can’t be a fantastic place to work - many people truly thrive under the pace.

As a business that’s coming out of startup phase, and now scaling, there are still a few bits that need perfecting. That said, here even the most junior of staff can have their say and instruct the business’ managers. Which is rare. And definitely not the kind of culture you’d find in a larger, more established business with layer upon layer of hierarchy.

From owners to managers, employees to interns, there are a few things you need to be aware of before taking the plunge into #startuplife.

Currently experiencing turbulence

This is probably one of the most used phrases by startup teams. Most days in a startup are comparable to a bumpy transatlantic flight - your heart rate increases and you get a shock of adrenaline every time things start heating up. But hey, you know you’re heading somewhere that’ll make every bump worth it.

It’s one of the things that keeps a lot of people coming back for more. When you love being challenged and kept on your toes, anything but this is slow, boring and simple, not enough. Overcoming pressures of things going awry as a team is great for morale and bonding. But, it can seem like one hurdle after the next. Never forget to celebrate your triumphs - small, medium and large ones.

Get tooled up

Get the right kit and software as soon as possible. Especially if you’re setting up something like a new CRM, it can be time-consuming and difficult to implement later on, once processes are already in place.

Do your research and work out what will be the best fit for you. You want to get flexible and customizable software, so you can use it best for your company. There are so many possibilities out there. 

In with the new, out with the... new?

One of the wonderful things about startup life is that you can try new things. There wasn’t anything that came before what you’re doing now. It’s also a great time to experiment. What’s the saying? Fail fast, fail often, and always fail forward.

The business is fast-moving anyway, so trialing different protocols will be second nature. Forge ahead with ideas and see how they go. Startups have to be agile to duck and weave past potential issues, which gives them the flexibility to be unique.

All of that said, don’t completely disregard the traditional ways, or strive to be unconventional for the sake of it. Your team, as agile as they are, will need some stability to cling to, so make sure you’re not changing too much at once, or keeping anyone out of the loop. Tried and tested can be best - don’t try and reinvent the wheel when it’s doing a perfectly good job.

Only talk the talk if you can walk the walk

So many wannabe CEOs, and team members will tell people anything they want to hear. Be it to their staff or suppliers, landlords or even their own families, they’ll try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. And most don’t have anything to show for themselves, making it twice as bad if they’d just been honest in the first place.

Don’t be this person.

You’ll earn a lot more credibility by being able to follow through with what you say. If you, for example, set out to change the processes of the sales team, get them excited and on board with this shift and fail to ever get it going, it doesn’t look good. Make sure you’re trusted, and the respect you’ll earn is going to be priceless. 

Startups are flexible. You’ll find opportunities to jump on a range of projects, often outside of the job role you were hired for. So make the most of these opportunities. Experiment and throw yourself into the work you’re passionate about. If you prove your position is valuable and own it, you’ll be indispensable, and find yourself slotting quite smoothly into your dream position.

Presenteeism leads to absenteeism

There’s a weird culture that startups seem to have. In such a high-paced arena, everybody’s trying to prove themselves and throw themselves into their work. Most do it because they genuinely love their job, but the mindset seems to directly correlate their devotion and quality of work to how many hours they put in. This is crazy. Not only does overworking yourself diminish your quality of work, but burnout becomes a daily battle and will end up affecting all areas of your life.

This is partially thanks to increased connectivity to the workplace. Apps like Slack are so easy to download onto your phone. Then, before you know it, you’re checking it before you’ve properly opened your eyes in the morning and you’re still working late into the night.

A recent CIPD report states that 9 out of 10 respondents rate “employees’ inability to switch off out of work hours as the most common negative effect of technology on well-being”. It’s an epidemic in tech companies - and it’s spreading.

Decide if you’re a rocket ship or a cruise ship

This is straight out of the Futrli handbook. Internally, we talk about our company as a rocketship. For good reason, too. We’ve hit 100 on the employee headcount and there’s no plan to stop.

If we lined up those 100 team members and asked them what their best piece of advice for new starters would be, we guarantee that the most common answer would be that you need to be prepared for anything. So, if you’re dreaming of a chilled working life, but find yourself looking out the window at the stars, it might be time to reconsider.

But hey, this can work the other way, too. Some employees will join your company expecting to be faced with this level of challenge. Can you provide this? If you’re taking a cruise ship approach and your team is for a fast ride, maybe you’re not the best fit for each other, either.

Startups are all about freedom. Freedom to build the company you want, freedom to complete your mission, however you feel best, and the freedom to work in a style that best suits you.

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