What motivates someone to forgo the benefits and stability of a large corporation for the opportunity to work out of a basement at an early-stage startup?
At my startup Porch.com, (where we did start in my basement!), we've hired several talented individuals from some of the largest and most innovative companies in tech. For many who have successfully made the transition, it comes with a desire to test their skills, broaden their perspectives, and learn new ways to get the job done.
Moving from a large corporation to a startup isn't for everyone. But for those who are considering the change, it's a chance to prove to yourself (and the world) that you can be part of a team building something from the ground up. It's a chance to prove your ability to start up a business and make a dent in the universe.
If you are wondering how to determine if this transition is right for you, here are four questions to ask yourself before you make the jump.
1. Are you comfortable with ambiguity?
Large corporations have a structure in place that creates predictability and consistency across a broad set of employees. Product releases are orchestrated, quarterly business reviews happen on schedule, and internal communication is delivered in a formalized manner.
As you move from corporate to startup life, you leave behind the world of predictability and knowingly step into an environment that can be volatile. Plans change. The market pivots. To thrive you need to be the type of person who is energized by the opportunity that change provides. A project you're working on one day could be scrapped or modified the next as priorities shift. Startups by their very nature are about change, and you need to have the gumption and agility to embrace ambiguity when it arises.
2. Can you be productive with fewer resources?
Large corporations have bigger budgets. That is a fact. As such there are more resources available to tackle problems, such as the hiring of external agencies to help scale and execute creative campaigns.
When you're working at a startup you need to be incredibly thoughtful and efficient with how you spend your dollars. To be effective you need to be willing to find ways to solve problems with creativity, not an abundance of resources. You have to find ways to make more happen with less and if you aren't willing to get your hands dirty and do the work yourself, startup life isn't for you.
3. Can you handle full accountability for your work?
The large corporate structure doesn't completely mask accountability, but it can veil it. It's an unfortunate side effect of a bureaucratic environment that people often get credit for work they didn't do and it's easy to shift the blame when things go wrong.
At a startup, accountability is very clear. You know exactly what you are responsible for and everything you do is material to the success of the business. You get the glory when you do things well, but it's also clear who is on the line when things don't go well. You have to be able to shoulder the full weight of your responsibilities if you want to try your hand in a startup. I love the idea that the business will succeed or fail based on how effective I am at my job and my team relishes in the fact that their effort can make a massive impact on the business. If you're not comfortable with this pressure (and the rush), stay away.
4. Are you flexible and ready for anything?
For many, life at a large corporation provides a certain degree of stability. Roles and expectations are usually clear and defined, especially in circumstances where there is a quite a bit of history and product legacy.
In a startup, you have to be flexible day in and day out. You have to be able to think widely, taking on roles and responsibility that you might not be qualified for (and ones you may think you are too qualified for). You need to be able to take on anything--from putting out the trash, to taking calls from customers if there are too many, to making a sales call, or diving into an important project. Be ready for anything at a startup--that's often what it takes to make it.