Being a startup founder is poles apart from being an employee. During my 20 year employment career I’ve worked for small tech companies and large software manufacturers. I’ve now had a web app startup for the last two years. Like many I’ve been taught by successive employers how to behave as an employee. My attitude has had to change with our startup because uncertainty abounds and as founder’s we’re responsible for everything.
Edward Norton beating himself out of employment
in the movie FlightClub.
Last year I met Ben Way who started running companies at 15! Ben’s now the grand age of 29. I spoke to Ben about his startup life and he said ” I’ve always known it this way and don’t know it any differently.” Having a startup, particularly one where you are trying to build a product, requires a very different approach from being an employee. You have to change your outlook and the way you manage your time:
- Job security – There is none! Remember what it was like when one of your past jobs was in jeopardy and uncertain abounded. That is what it is like everyday in a startup, get used to it.
- Salary – In a startup, particularly if you are building a product, there is no money posted into your bank account every month. Get used to living frugally.
- Structure – You don’t have the hierarchy of a company to rely on. You have to do everything. From setting strategic direction to putting out the trash (rubbish)
- Discipline – There is nobody telling you what to do. This sounds great, however it does mean you have to be totally self disciplined.
- Direction – Too much freedom can be a bad thing. You can become paralyzed by uncertainty. You must maintain a focus on where you are going.
- Massive Overload – There is too much to do in a startup. Much more than any other job I’ve ever had. And I’ve worked for small 10 person companies before. You have to prioritize.
- Tough decisions – You continually have to make difficult decisions which have significant downstream effects. If you’re a procrastinator stop it and make decisions. Afterall a decision is better than no decision at all.
Many employees dream of having their own company. The reality is that it’s whole new world. In a startup the highs are higher and the lows are lower. It much more of an emotional roller coaster of a ride than being an employee. The challenge of building a company is extremely exciting. And the ability to create in a startup is immensely rewarding. However the workload, responsiblity and uncertainty can sometimes make the whole process seem overwhelming. There certainly is never a dull moment in the life of a startup.