Being branded as ‘The Start Up Girl’, I am usually advocating that working for start-ups is a good life choice. I really enjoy working working in start-ups and one of my most important lessons I have learned is that being open to criticism and receiving feedback is one of the few ways people and companies can achieve more. I seriously believe in challenging the ‘normal’ approaches to business and I aim to execute this mantra daily. Now, it’s my turn to criticise/provide feedback to start ups. Just like anything else, start-ups should be looking to constantly improve and in my opinion there are definitely some practices that start-ups should do better/ change their approaches on.
Do more to help employees personally and professionally grow
From experience, as an employee it goes like this: Get on and do it, if you don’t know how to do it, figure it out.
Of course, you learn so much in a start up environment and if you do work well, the spotlight can really be with you. However, on the whole, start -ups tend to be slightly egotistical. More specifically so regarding to what they offer their employees: Flexible hours, shares, good work life balance (not true), ping-pong tables and a great environment at work. Granted they do offer all these things, however when it comes to perks/benefits/resources something is lacking. As there is usually no ‘norm’, no one really knows what goes. It takes that gutsy someone to ask: ‘Oh can I have another monitor as it will help me to work more productively.’ Then the quieter ones get left out. Employers tend to assume you have everything you need as a worker so it’s left upon the individuals to take the initiative, which can be daunting.
More importantly, most employees won’t have the chance to work directly under someone and learn from their expertise and seniority. So many times you will hear: ‘Oh so and so is really good but they would be even better if they had someone guiding them/a senior to learn from’. Long story short, start-ups can’t afford to employ these seniors and the employees are left not being able to really excel. How do we overcome this? Training, online-learning, mentors, spending time with advisors etc. The important thing for employers/managers to notice is that people don’t usually know what they need to improve; otherwise they would have gone out to do it already. Give them ideas of resources and make it easy to implement. For example, if you want your employees to learn from Skillshare, Udemy etc, pay for the subscription and set a task of watching 1 video a month.
Being ambitious vs being healthily pragmatic
‘We’re going to reach 100 million users in 6 months’ the founder exclaims. ‘Y-y-y-yes!’ everyone else mildly mutters in fear. It pays to be ambitious and it really can be a great motivation for the whole team. But we all have to start from somewhere and believing your idea will be bigger than Uber and AirBnb is probably really unlikely in reality. This is not to say that visions for the company should be severely underestimated, but choose your targets wisely and make sure they are calculated. There’s nothing worse than putting unreasonable pressure on employees to do the unexpected. There are so many risks and uncertainties in the start up environment so some level of remaining realistic can really ground all the anxiety.
Stop feeling ‘entitled’ to receive help
There are two types of start-ups; ones that want to collaborate and those that don’t. The ones that don’t aren’t necessarily bad or unfriendly. I’m all-open to being friendly and helping other start ups out with small amounts of social media promotion (only sometimes!) However, for some reason, because start-ups are generally small, cash strapped and looking to grow, they always feel like they require help and not only require help but should be receiving help. We’re all in the same boat and we’re all trying to make it big. Firstly, if you are trying to collaborate, DON’T make it one sided. So many times I hear: Oh can you promote us in your newsletter? Hang on a minute…. That’s not collaboration, that’s asking for a favour, a massive one at that. In reality, collaboration is just a draft partnership. Either you go all in or not at all.
And lastly, whilst I am at it, I am going to express my personal peeve. I have been so fortunate to not have ever been in this position but it is a harsh reality that many employees/interns are unpaid. I’m not going to go into the detail of the numerous reasons why this is wrong but here are my two pleas:
– Don’t offer the opportunity of experience to interns if there really is no chance of hiring them at the end of the internship period. False hope is just unfair.
– There’s a minimum wage for a reason, abide by it. Those of you based in London, there’s a London living wage for a reason, I encourage you to use it.