7 lessons I’ve learned from working at a startup

My entire 2011 was at a startup. It’s like one of those long relationships. We started by learning about each other and it got more exciting every day. There were moments when I was wondering what they think of me and what was next! When we thought we got used to each other, we got more responsibilities and commitments as a couple company. So we got overwhelmed at times and scared at other times. We needed to understand each other all over again and learn about each other even more, sometimes it was like we never met before! Got a few time-outs and more new experiments, where we learned new stuff together. Things that none of us knew or tried before. We got bigger with more demands and responsibilities. It seemed like it happened overnight. We freaked out again and started setting some rules AND roles, a lot of them have been changed and tweaked. Along the way, I learned not to set or accept any expectations; they can easily be proven wrong. Sometimes to better, sometimes to not. But only when it happens, I have to decide what to accept and what to not accept. I have to say it was a year that passed by like a week, made me look forward to a mature “relationship”. If I want to summarize my 2011 in 7 lessons, they would be:

– Don’t count hours or days. Don’t look for more digits on your paycheck, yet.

If you’re looking for 9-5, run now! If you’re in it for the money, I don’t think you’ll get what you want that soon. Sometimes, you will need to work overnight, other times you’ll spend holidays at work. If you’re looking for comfort, startup is not for you.

– Believe in the goal and the success story you want to create.

Never get trapped in a routine. It should always be exciting, storming and transforming! Never stable and structured, until it stops being a startup. Focus your efforts on how to make things better and how to be efficient. Always think of how to make it successful for you and your clients. Then if you fail, it would be OK. But never lose hope in what you do, and most important in people around you.

– Expect changes and be open minded.

Changes in your physical place, your position, your role, your team and everything! Sometimes, you’ll find yourself an office boy, other times you will participate in taking decisions for the CEO. Sometimes you will be supporting others and other times you will cry for support. It’s a tough roller-coaster. Scary and fun, but never boring.

– Don’t get off the bus before, at least, you get there.

First, think of what you want from working at a startup. What is it that you want to walk out with? If you’re in it for the experience, to make a difference and a success story; don’t leave before you get all that. You’ll think there’s nothing more you can give or get and you’ll think you got there but then not yet. It all happens when you’re at the peak, right before you get the best part. The best part is at the end of the tunnel, get there! Stick around in sickness and in health.

– Learn new things everyday. Watch, read, listen and teach.

Startups and those who work at a startup should believe in learning and in (smart) mistakes. Learn new things, try new things, get empowered and then give to others. Never stop learning. Never stop doing new smart mistakes and always share what you’ve done and learned.

– Engage your people and with them.

You need people, you need their commitment and hard work and they are all you got. Engage them and make them heroes of the story. Let them take decisions, sometimes. Make them feel valuable and appreciated whenever you got the chance. Always thank them for the extra effort they put. Never say it’s their task; no one’s task is to work 90 hours/week for 12 months. They do it for you and for themselves. Not for the task sake.

– Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Anything could happen, anytime and any minute. Know where you’re standing and keep good relationships with all. Work like nothing will be as successful as this. Learn like you need it all to start again. You won’t fail forever.

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