What Is the Best and Worst Thing About Startups?

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When I was launching my first startup, I was curious about what life was like working at a “normal” company. I asked my friend employed by a Fortune 500, “What is the worst and best thing about working at a big corporation?

My friend told me, “The worst thing is, you can do a great job and it won’t matter. No one will notice. You can really apply yourself and get fantastic results and it won’t make any difference.”

I asked him, “Then what is the best thing about working at a big corporation?

The best thing is, you can do a terrible job and it won’t matter. No one will notice. You can slack off and do the bare minimum and it won’t make any difference.”

While recently guest lecturing at a marketing class, a student asked me, “What is the best thing about starting a startup?

I told her, “The best thing about starting a startup is that there are no layers of management or cookie-cutter regulations. There is no track record of success making people scared to risk rocking the boat with change. There is no bureaucratic red tape to navigate or political BS. There is little to lose and much to gain. Everyone’s results are visible and you have some responsibility for everything good that happens. There are no people, past events, or processes to hold you back.

She asked, “Then what is the worst thing about starting a startup?

“The worst thing about starting a startup is that there are no higher-ranking leaders to bring your hard decisions to. There is no existing brand recognition or customer loyalty to build upon. There are no established guidelines or processes to follow. Your results are visible and you have some responsibility for everything bad that happens. There are no people, past events, or processes to hold you up.

The best things are also the worst things.

Having spent my marketing career in fast-growing startups and leading Fortune 500 brands, I have seen these same parallels again and again. There are things to love and to loathe on both sides.

Know your choice and own your choice.

Do not hate a small startup for being a small startup. Do not hate a large corporation for being a large corporation. Whatever type of company you pick, proceed consciously with your eyes wide open to the blessings and the burdens that you choose.

Written by

Making the world a better place, one brand at a time @ BarryRabkin.com

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