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You have spent years working for large companies. You’ve gotten used to the global offices, extensive resources, and a well-known brand, and rarely worry about whether you – and your team – will be paid. But you had a brilliant business idea, you ran with it, and now you find yourself in unknown territory: running a startup.
There are obviously huge differences between what it takes to dominate Corporate America and what it takes to start a business from scratch. And I have certainly heard that the people who can thrive in American businesses simply cannot be this entrepreneurial, and that many entrepreneurs would be laid off in a large company.
However, I was a senior executive in a large company and founder of a startup – twice. This may be somewhat unusual, but I have learned that experience in large companies can be extremely valuable in running a startup. And I also learned that there are habits of big companies that should be left in this marble hall. Here are my top five tips for the new entrepreneur navigating the leadership and growth of startups with only the big companies on their CV.
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1. Apply what you already know – you can take it with you.
The fact that your former employer had 30,000 employees does not mean that the same proven and real business principles, best practices and skills cannot be applied to your startup which currently has three employees. Just take Tony Fadell, who left his company as senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division and advisor to Steve Jobs, to found Nest alongside his Apple colleague Matt Rogers. Tony applied the same ingenuity, the same engineering skills and the business acumen developed at Apple to launch the Nest Learning Thermostat after identifying a market need for smart thermostats.
2. Focus first on adjusting the product market.
You probably have to take the product market for granted in your role in big business. People did not wonder if your product was even necessary or if your category was even a category. In start-ups, the most critical question is often whether people actually think that your solution adds value compared to the status quo. So what you need to obsess over is this critical question of whether your solution is right for a market. Until the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”, don’t worry about all the other questions about scaling.
3. Fundamentals are fundamentals.
Raising money and understanding appraisals is probably a whole new ball game for you. Whether you run a startup or are in a large company, the fundamentals of rate and volume are always important. How many people will pay how much money for what you do over time? Focus on calculating the actual numbers that have a direct impact on your business, such as the total number of users or subscribers or customers, average revenue per user, cost of acquiring customers and leave the calculations valuation is something you only consider when talking to investors.
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4. Objective and positive impact.
Make sure you are clear about your goal and what positive impact you intend to have on the world. Why? As a startup, you will attract many millennials. In fact, the data shows that millennials are 1.82 times more likely to have studied entrepreneurship than any other generation, 47%. of them working for a company with 100 or fewer employees. It is important to provide a work environment in which millennials will thrive and want to be part of it.
According to a recent study, for example, 55% of millennials want to see their company more involved in sustainable development programs. Having a clear position on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability efforts from the start can help attract and retain this cause-driven generation – who, by the way, is now the largest generation of American workforce. A new Cone Communications study found that 76% of millennials consider CSR when choosing where to work.
5. Pay close attention to culture – and hire the right people for you.
Finding the right people to fit the culture is important for any business, regardless of size and stage. But as the leader of a startup, it is absolutely essential to understand “adapted to the scene”. There are exceptional people who go absolutely bane in an early stage environment. And there are people who thrive at an early stage who will not really grow when it grows. Understanding who suits where is a constant and sometimes painful process, but having the right team at the right time is absolutely essential.
And perhaps the most important advice: give the business everything you have. I would venture to guess one of the most common reasons why a startup ultimately fails is that the founder gives up. While entrepreneurship is certainly not for everyone and every business idea is not a good idea, there is certainly something to be said about the hard work, dedication and determination when it comes to the successful launch of a business. If you believe in your business, you will have more reason to succeed.
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