Anytime someone moves up the corporate ladder and assumes more responsibility, the change presents new opportunities and potential problems. Nowhere is this more evident than when an executive makes the switch from a job at an established corporation to one at a startup.
In moving from one company to another, there's always a learning curve. But while any new job can be daunting, transitioning from working at a company replete with financial and personnel resources to one that's still carving out a niche presents a whole different set of challenges and opportunities.
I discovered this when I left a Fortune 100 company to join Retale. Here are a few tips that can help you hit the ground running as an executive at a startup:
1. Use experience to your advantage.
Remember the great lessons that helped you build your professional foundation, hone your instincts and manage various situations while you climbed the corporate ladder? Well now more than ever is the time to put them to use.
Jumping into the deep end of the entrepreneurial pool does not mean forgeting everything learned previously. Use that very foundation to overcome or avoid the pitfalls that might stump a less experienced entrepreneur.
2. Remember that no one has to listen to you anymore.
At an established company, a manager might find herself in an enviable position when it comes time to choosing a vendor as suppliers clamber and compete for the business.
The same cannot be said for an executive at a startup. Now you often will be the one charged with drumming up new relationships and generating sales for a new product or service offered by your fledgling company. Thus remember to be humble and put to use the negotiation tools that you learned from being on the other side of the table.
Related: Mindfullness and the Startup CEO
3. Be prepared to carry more weight.
You might think that the always-on executive life of constantly checking email and being reachable even on a vacation may have prepped you for anything.
In a startup environment, however, not only will you be attached to work but also especially bonded to the people who have joined you. The realization that they may have changed course, risking their careers and livelihoods to join your company, will instill in you a personal commitment to their success.
4. You'll need all the energy you can muster.
There's no way around the fact that startup life is exhilarating and exhausting on all fronts: physical, intellectual and emotional. Given the world of startups has no catch-up days and no meetings that you can miss, you must be ready to go all out every day to achieve success in a rapidly evolving business world.
Sustaining this high level of energy over a long period of time is a necessity. So individuals thinking about a move into the startup world must be dedicated to keeping up a sprint over the long haul.
5. Consider yourself lucky.
While the startup world is hectic and demanding, if you have the chance to be an entrepreneur after building a corporate career and have found the right venture, go all in.
Sure, you might have to do some things differently and recalibrate some behaviors, but the opportunity to take a project from the idea stage to its final execution doesn’t come around that often. You'll also get a chance to challenge yourself in ways you probably thought would never happen. Nothing could be more gratifying than that.
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