You are going to make mistakes

It is almost inevitable that when working at a startup you are going to make mistakes–plenty of them. If you are not making mistakes everyday then you are not learning. I have been making a lot of mistakes, many more compared to when I was working at Citigroup. Why is this the case? Because there are different dynamics at play at a startup:

  • Culture: Large, established companies have a very defined culture, hierarchy, and ways of doing business. In entry-level roles or early years at a large company your actions have very little impact on the business (unless you are a trader or big time banker). If you don’t show up for work on a given day the company will be just fine without you. However, at a startup what you do has a huge impact on the business, strategy, and potential success of the company. You need to live and breathe it 24/7 and understand that you don’t have the depth you would normally have at large company. You have to step up everyday and make things happen.
  • Path Defined: Large companies already have their business models and strategies in place, and most likely have for a long time. They will try to innovate here and there but the true nature of their business is already established. You generally know what strategies work and have a boss that tells you what to do. While you may have a boss that tells you what to do at a startup, the strategies that you act on are extremely unclear. You don’t yet know what works and have to set a vision and chase after it relentlessly.
  • Learning Curve: There is a much larger learning curve at a startup than at a big company mainly due to the 2 dynamics above. The culture and way of doing things and the strategy are both in their formative stages. Therefore, you are much more likely to make mistakes.
Keep making mistakes and keep making your mistakes quickly. The faster the better. I am learning that it’s a great way to develop new skills and sharpen your understanding of what it takes to build a successful company.

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