And so around this time a year ago, I made the decision to enter into a fulltime employment arrangement after chasing a product startup dream and trying to grow a consulting gig. It was a rather rushed affair, with an opening made available to me that I thought would be an interesting opportunity and my need to find additional sources of revenue to keep afloat.
So how has it been?
Well, to be honest, the predictability of having income is a good thing. And having someone else bear the responsibility of making sure revenue and profit targets are being met is a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s been great having to work in much larger teams and in many ways it’s really amazing knowing that multiple people have your back covered on a day to day basis.
All that said, there are overlaps that I realise exists between working in the startup space and now in an SME. I thought I’d share 5 of them
- It’s important to know where things are heading in both a startup and in a company you’re working for.
This really is about putting your role into perspective. In a startup, you’re the point man in steering the company towards a particular vision. When you’re working for someone else, the difference is you’re not the point man. But you are playing a role in steering the company towards a particular vision. If you’re in sales then you’re going to need to know what sort of clients to go for. If you’re in engineering then you’re going to need to make sure the team has the correct type of skills and capacity to deliver on the products.
The problem with not knowing where the company is heading is you running the risk of either achieving stuff that’s not relevant to the company’s goals or you just end up maintaining the status quo. Both, not so good. (And I feel the latter being worse of the two)
- Good people are the ones who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
It’s no secret that startup folks work long hours, forgo vacations and generally end up married to their work because they passionately want to deliver. I’ve come to realise that such folks exist in the ‘working world’ too. These are the folks that don’t just work for the pay cheque – they’re the ones who genuinely want to see the company grow and succeed. These are the folks who obsess about doing a good job for the clients and will do almost anything it takes to deliver – long hours, burnt weekends, disrupted social life.And just like in the startup space, you know the folks are emotionally invested when they, just like startups, get really happy with the wins, really depressed with the losses and really angry with the inefficiencies and the differing opinions on how to move the company forward.
- Growth pains are just as painful.
I always thought it was hard to bootstrap a startup (we all know that) but it’s only now that I realise the pains exist in about the same magnitude even in a more established company. It’s just a different kind of pain. In a bootstrapped startup, the financial resources seem to be the limited resources – you can’t find the money to hire the people you need or buy the equipment that would give you most leverage. But in a larger company, the revenue streams are slightly more predictable and afford you access to the talent pool and tools. BUT because you’re larger, you’re now also bogged down with providing product and service support to existing clients which means time becomes the precious resource that you don’t have. You end up having to squeeze out time from lunch and weekends and evenings so that you can conduct interviews, carve out the development milestones, etc.
- Every person is as important as everyone else.
I’d think that in an MNC, there are enough redundancies in place to make many people rather dispensable. Not so much in SMEs and startups. Every person has a role and is assigned a very specific set of responsibilities and everyone else is counting on you to get it done. If you fall, everyone else will cover you but at a significant cost to each of them and at a much reduced level of effectiveness because they’re not really the person hired to do your type of job. (Sometimes no one can even take over because that one person’s skillset is too specialised)
- It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations that you forget what the mid and long terms goals are.
This point, I think, is applicable to all businesses. There comes a point when there’s more than enough day-to-day and week-to-week work that you can sort of shove the big picture aside for a while. Problem is, sometimes we forget to get back to it and wake up one morning and wonder, “What exactly have we achieved in the past 6 months?”
I think things have been pretty interesting so far and i’m glad I started things out having slogged at my own stuff because where I am now, it’s just like being in a startup again where, where we are is not good enough and where we need to be is an uphill task. Thankfully, there are good people with me. And sometimes, that’s the one thing that keeps everyone going.
Ridzuan is Head of Development at INEO Solutions Singapore and has been dabbling in both web and mobile development since 2003. His interests include how technology can be used to improve the human condition, poverty alleviation through sustainable development, education and microfinancing.