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.