Wow, tomorrow it will officially be three months that I have left employment. Seems like ages ago. During this journey into entrepreneurship, I have made so many new friends, learned so many new things, been through hell and back, yet I’ve never felt so alive in a long long time. I just wanted to share the top three lessons I’ve learned during this transition, and I hope it will help anyone who’s thinking about leaving their corporate jobs to go into a startup.
1) You are the brand
The transition has to be one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
When I was in a large corporate company, it was very easy for me to hide behind a big brand name or a big title. I would go around and I knew I belong to a big branded organisation, and expected people I meet to give that little bit more respect, even if not to me, at least to the company that I represent.
Now I have none of these. I only have me, I am the brand, and people will decide whether they want to talk to me based purely on the impression I leave on them. In fact, if anything, people know I have no brand and no track record, and you have to work even harder to demonstrate that you are a good credible person that they can work with. Even before I left employment I thought I knew and expected this. But when it actually happens, you realise that you’ll never really know it until you leave all that behind.
2) Without a company brand, if you want a decision made, talk to a decision maker
Many may be surprised by this, but CEOs and Founders for the most part can actually take much more honesty than someone who is employed in a company. What do I mean by this? I’m very transparent when I’m talking to someone about Wobb, on areas that I will focus on, and areas that I anticipate may be a problem. And here’s where founders and employees typically react differently.
A founder or CEO understands the startup process, they know there are uncertainties that no one can predict, and there will be many problems ahead. And because of that, they actually appreciate it when I tell them what problems I expect to face. Their BS radar is so strong, that if someone was to try to sell them the perfect vision, they know that they can’t trust you. So as long as I’ve thought about the problems, and have some good ideas on how to tackle them, they will see that as being credible and trustworthy, which is someone that they can work with.
Contrast this with an employee. Employees don’t like uncertainty, not because they don’t understand you, but largely because they are not in a position to put their company at any risk, just because “I trust this guy”. They want to hear the perfect vision, and without a brand, or with uncertainties in the future, they will probably decide that they won’t even talk to their CEO about it, so the message never reaches the decision maker.
Always go straight to the decision maker.
3) Collaborate with everyone, even if you think they are a competitor
When you are in a large corporate company, collaboration with other companies are typically the decisions of the people who sit at the top, and therefore cross company collaborations are few and far between.
Not in the startup world. When you’re small, everyone is your friend. Doesn’t matter if you compete in some areas, people understand that collaboration gives everyone more strength. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t work together to help each other grow and move quicker, or spend time and energy fighting each other, you will just be eaten up alive by the larger more established companies.