Working for big business certainly has its perks, there’s no doubt about it. Stability, direction, benefits, work that is defined – you name it. It can be a magical place so long as we do enough to stay off the radar of those watching while mentally checking out for 8 hours a day to do this thing we call ‘work’.
If working for the bigs’ is so great than why are so many people changing their professional course of direction and seeking the world of the start-up?
The start-up world can be an exciting place. I’ve experienced this personally over the last two years while also support many clients who are in the same place. Decisions are often made speedily, there’s typically less bureaucracy, work is more flexible and of course it tends to be much more creative.
Then it’s settled, everyone should work in a start-up! I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in that kind of an environment?
Pump the brakes my impatient chums. Before you diving into the world of a start-up (including small business) take a moment to check in with yourself on how you land with these five characteristics of the start-up world:
1. Working Outside the Box
When we work for big companies often times our job and daily output is focused on a certain set of tasks. It’s the opposite in the start-up world as often times the mentality of those who are successful in this space is that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and company moving forward. This includes taking out your own trash! If you’ve ever said “that’s not part of my job description” in response to work that was requested of you I would recommend taking a hard look at whether a start-up or small company is the right move for your career.
2. Time Requirements
Working 8-5 in a large company can be a very nice perk. If you’ve done that for any length of time you may have forgotten how nice it is to mentally shut off at 5PM. In start-ups working 8-5 is non-existent. It’s common to work long hours and or be tethered to your smart phone around the clock. The statement of ‘work life balance’ is blurred beyond recognition in the start-up world. Those that are successful here know and understand that it takes time and effort to create something. How dedicated are you to making that happen and what are you giving up in the process?
3. Ambiguous Nature
Working in a large company doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is clearly defined and outlined yet it is typical that SOPs (standard operating processes) are at the very least available for workers who choose to use them. In the start-up world you may find yourself creating these on your own. Take a moment to think how you would feel about being confronted with a daily situation where you are supposed to be working hard, hell – harder than ever before, and there isn’t a lot of direction or support to help you in that effort. If the thought of that excites you than the start-up world may be a breath of fresh air, if not then maybe your 3 foot wide cubicle and plush ergonomic chair your large company bought is the safer bet.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a start-up in my opinion. Leadership. If you haven’t worked in the start-up world before you may not be aware that people in leadership still do much of the hands on work. In big business this is hardly the case. Neither camp of leaders are necessarily better than one of the other, it’s just a very different environment. In start-ups every person on the team has to give 150% to the cause which means those who don a leadership title still have to get dirty in the day to day work. The reason you want to consider this as a part of your ‘can I make it in the start-up world’ is because leadership ultimately can have a great or very grave impact on the start-up business. Seems a bit obvious but when someone is doing both daily work and in charge of strategic decision making their influence and involvement has a much greater impact. In big business if a company experiences a failure with one of their leaders it typically can be salvaged whereas in the start-up world one or two cost mistakes by leadership will send the company into a grave six feet under.
Start-ups offer an intimate working experience. It’s a necessity. Working in a start-up everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s close quarters with high amounts of communication, partnering and feedback. Collaboration of course exists in big business but not at the intimate level of the start-up. When we work for a big company we are often a part of a team but doing work independently, even times on our own little island. If you’ve come to enjoy your island and aren’t interested in having neighbors up in your grill on the daily than perhaps staying in big business is the right decision for you.
A professional life in a start-up can indeed be a rewarding and exciting adventure. Once we’ve spent some time analyzing what’s most important to us in our career and what we’re willing to do to get it than we’ll have a better idea of how the start-up environment and career fits in with our plans.
The media loves the sensationalism of it. Many love to protest it. Others use it as a platform for reconstruction.
The American Dream - is it dead or alive?
Seems like there’s a lot of talk about the American Dream at present in our country. What is it anyway?
The American Dream is the national tenet of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work..." What stands out to me in this statement are the words ‘opportunity’ and ‘hard work’. What this tells us is the American Dream is an opportunity to prosper yet it only comes through hard work.
Yet this still does not address the question - is the American Dream alive or dead?
I know of a story which may help you with this question. While this may be just one story it’s important to note there are thousands of others like it. You decide.
Our story starts off with a talented young woman who calls Portland, Oregon her home. Carly Sitner is a mother of two, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a vegan and one tough cookie with the courage of a tiger. Needless to say she's incredibly busy. Speaking of cookies, Carly happens to be a chef with a specialty in pastries, desserts and other fancy baked goodies that sooth the soul and make your taste buds run wild.
Carly (pictured here) has been a chef for 13 years in Portland working for a variety of bakeries, including some very large corporate establishments like the grocery store that sells only 'wholesome' things to eat.
At the age of 31 Carly decided that enough was enough and she was going to make her dream a reality. She was going to open the first ever vegan donut shop in Portland. What’s amazing about this story is what Carly is leaving behind in order to follow her dream, the American Dream. She's leaving behind a stable leadership role with the 'wholesome' grocery store, a good paycheck and a job that is rewarding - all for the unknown. Yet she’s doing it anyways. Mind you she has a very full life outside of work yet that doesn't seem to stop her.
Starting a small business is no day at the fair. It’s hard work, long hours, risky and takes determination. If it was truly easy everyone would be in business for themselves. Yet Carly pushes onward. It would also be important to note that neither Carly or her business partner are wealthy, nor have they been given a huge sum of money in which to seed the business. Often times I hear people talk about business owners and just automatically assume they all came from gobs of money. This just isn't the case.
Carly started off the ole fashion way with nothing more than an idea and a will to see it through. First they built interest in their product (craft made vegan donuts) in the local community by doing bake sales and small catering. They then took their idea on Kickstarter where the community responded with praise helping them pass their goal, handsomely. Carly and her partner then took those early wins and proceeds which were acquired with lots of time, patience and hard work and presented it to a couple local banks. With little collateral and just a dream a bank shared their vision and gave them a loan to start the business.
As we fast forward to present day, the donut shop, called Doe Donuts, is scheduled to open early this summer, albeit with a line around the block from patrons feverishly waiting to sink their teeth into the tasty baked goods Carly whips up.
The story of Carly Sitner and Doe Donuts may still be in the early chapters yet as with any good story you know you’ve got a winner even when you’re only a couple pages in. The story of Doe Donuts and the entrepreneurial spirit of Carly and her business partner sheds much needed light on the types of opportunities that exist in this country. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Apparently Carly enjoys overalls and hard work because this opportunity isn't passing her by.
Is the American Dream alive or dead?
I believe it is indeed ALIVE and well and Doe Donuts is a fresh and tasty example of what can happen when someone puts words to action and follows their dream.
As it turns out Carly Sitner, our pastry chef extraordinaire, also happens to be my younger sister. I’m incredibly proud of her and the decisions she’s made to follow her dream of owning her own business while doing something that she truly loves.
I look forward to being one of her customers waiting patiently in line to savor their tasty donuts while taking a bite of Carly’s version of the American Dream.
About the Author
Serving over a decade in the technical services industry in Orange County, CA, Travis Smith has developed a talent for assessing technical talent and overseeing technical projects. His other areas of specialty include: leadership development, business development, resource planning and creative solutioning.