You’re sitting at your computer, working on your daily tasks when all of a sudden you get excited. A new customer just converted on your website. Not just any customer, I’m talking about a whale. Someone who will generate tons of revenue for your company, be it a one-time deal or on a recurring basis. You immediately stop what you are doing and turn to your co-worker: “Holy crap, did you see the customer that just converted? This could make us a lot of money.” You decide to give this customer 5-star service. They ask a question that could take 30 minutes of your time to answer? Who cares, we could get paid a ton it’s worth the time. You do whatever it takes to keep them happy and close the deal. You need this whale to give you cash, at any cost.
Does this sound familiar? What about your small customers that come in? Do you give the same urgency, care and attention to the small fish in the pond?
Typically, when I think about grabbing beers with others, it’s usually to get inebriated, act like idiots and have fun. However, since working at a startup with some beer aficionados (drunks?), I’ve come to realize that . I’ve noticed when I’m about one beer in (I’m a light-weight), the creative juices start to flow. Just the act of leaving the office and taking a break allows my brain to disengage and relax — letting it see problems from a different angle. And the beer greases the wheels, opening doors to new — and sometimes crazy — solutions.
I am in no way advocating going to work drunk, but I believe strongly that stopping work an hour or two earlier a couple times a month to grab a beer or two with your colleagues can increase productivity.
It seems that working for a startup is now a “hip” and “cool” trend when it comes to considering a new job. I might just be noticing it since I am working at a startup and people get very interested when I mention it, but interest in startup jobs is definitely growing. Just check out the chart below if you don’t believe me.
Number of searches for “startup jobs” – Jan. 2006 – Nov. 2014 (partial) (Source: Google Trends)
Sure, working at a startup sounds cool. You’ve heard about the perks: kegs every Friday; foosball tables in the office; unlimited vacation days — benefits you likely wouldn’t get at a normal 9-to-5 corporate job. Even though working at a startup is fun and exciting, it’s not always a party. You bust your ass every day (even weekends), and if you blow it, you could bring the whole company down with you.
That said, I firmly believe that working at a startup has changed my life and I’m loving the fast pace of everything. Every day there is something new to tackle. I started full-time here as Digsy’s first employee about 14 months ago and thought it would be beneficial to share my experience. Additionally, I asked seven other people who are also currently employed at startups to share their experiences working at a startup. So, let’s dig in:
“Fail Fast, Fail Often” and “Fail Better” are phrases that startups always hear from their mentors, and many live by (especially after reading The Lean Startup). Here at Digsy, failing fast gets mentioned at least once a day. Even though we’ve fully embraced the “fail fast” mantra to help our business succeed, the fear of complete failure is still there. Any startup has fears of failure. At Digsy we have gone through our set of failures, but it’s how we push through to the other side of our failures that keeps us going. Failing fast and quickly learning from our failures helped us get closer to product-market-fit before we went down in flames.
This is going to sound crazy, but one of our biggest failures occurred when we listened to our customers.
We’re a startup in the commercial real estate industry so we built our product based on many, many conversations with our potential customers: commercial real estate brokers. In every conversation, we would ask them about their pain points, business processes and how technology could help them accomplish their goals more easily. We would hear the same things over and over, so we decided to build a product that solved these pain points and addressed their wants and needs. We did this twice, and we crashed and burned. Twice.
It was ugly.