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The Place Where Every Day Is An All-Hands Meeting: Learning To Embrace Your Startup Self

This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine.

Written by Joe Staples, Chief Marketing Officer, Motivosity

No doubt there is a different feel to a startup compared with a well-established larger company. Having worked for four sizable companies in my career (three of them publicly traded) and more recently moving to a startup, the change has been distinct. See if any of these differences between an established company and a startup ring true for you.

Established Co: You’ve got more budget than good ideas worth spending on.
Startup: You quickly run out of budget, well before you run out of ideas.

Established Co: Your calendar is packed with meetings.
Startup: Your calendar is packed with things you’ve got to get done today.

Established Co: You have an unlimited SnackNation subscription.
Startup: You argue over who’s turn is it to make the monthly Costco run.

Established Co: You ask if you really need to attend both days of the employee on-boarding session.
Startup: You ask if someone could help you put your chair together.

Established Co: You’re frustrated because you forgot your security badge.
Startup: You’re worried that you might have forgotten to lock the office door when you were the last to leave at night.

Established Co: Vendors email and call you hundreds of times each week trying to sell you something.
Startup: You can’t get the local print vendor to call you back to take your order.

Established Co: You can’t remember what some of the items in your tech stack are used for.
Startup: You know full-well what BOTH items in your tech stack are for, how much they cost, and when the subscription expires.

In most of these cases, you’d think the advantage goes to the established company. Not true. At least not true if you embrace your startup self. Too often, startups feel like they need to make excuses for their office space, lack of money, smaller perks, and low brand recognition. Don't make excuses. Embrace it. Play to the strengths you get by being a startup, instead of trying to pretend you’re something you’re not.

What are some of those benefits of being a startup?

  • Startups can change and pivot in a way that is the envy of established companies.

  • Startups make decisions in an hour that large companies spend months considering.

  • Startups can track the metrics of the business so much better (okay, so there isn’t as much to track).

  • Startups are typically scrappier, fighting for all the business they can get.

Again, the key to unlocking the benefits of being a startup is to embrace it. Be transparent with your employees. As Motivosity founder Scott Johnson reminds our team — we're still bare-knuckle fighting. We haven't moved up to sophisticated, high-tech boxing gloves yet.

Here’s five things you can do to build a great startup culture where your team members embrace it and would think twice before trading it in for something bigger and more established:

  1. Find a way to celebrate every success and every new milestone achieved.

  2. Embrace your poverty – do your teammates have to assemble their own desk? Make it fun. Highlight the record for the fastest assembly.

  3. Make sure your employees who may never have worked at a large firm understand that it isn’t all wonderfulness and sunshine.

  4. Help your employees feel a sense of pride that they’re part of building something.

  5. Give your employees opportunities to broaden their skill set in a way that isn’t as possible at a larger company.

Employees at Utah’s tech startups often drive by the fancy buildings of their established bigger brothers with longing desires: “Someday that will be us.” If that’s a motivation for your startup culture, great. But while you’re still in that startup phase, use it to your advantage. Celebrate it. Own it. Have fun with it. And help your employees see it as a plus.

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