4 Steps to Help You Transition From Corporate to Start-Up Life

When I joined Silverback Social, I left a large law firm with unlimited resources and a thriving marketing department.  Since you are one LinkedIn search from finding out what law firm that is, I will save you the typing, it was Jackson Lewis and they were a pleasure to work for. Five years in, I realized that while I really enjoyed working there, I should take the tools I learned and see if I could be a part of something new and exciting. To join a great group of people who were building something great was a no brainer at this point in my life. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but what I didn’t realize was that a lot of the processes I used and my mind set would have to be drastically altered. Three months in, I am slowly starting to make that adjustment. 

1)    Embrace the volatility – I have always been very organized, both personally and professionally. Bills, paid on time. Tasks, clearly mapped out for me. I would look at my schedule for the week and plan/visualize what I expected from my meetings. I learned quickly, that this was not the case anymore. Cash Flow for small businesses is always a priority. There are days where playing accounts receivable trumps everything else on your to do with and that’s OK. When I first started at Silverback I had a short list of things to do. Quickly that short list became longer. Quickly, what I thought was a priority was trumped by new and exciting opportunities that became priorities. Those were then trumped by something else, and that’s OK.

2)    Get creative with tools – No longer did I have a one-stop shop for printing, scanning, faxing (not that I ever used that anyway) and an IT department a 4 digit dial away. I quickly started using free applications:

  • Sunrise – Sunrise is a fast, effective tool for managing schedules. If you’re a Google Calendar user, for example, the app syncs between the two services in real-time. If you’re on the road a lot, the time zone support is handy and automatically adjusts your appointment times to the correct hours. The weather feature, based on your location, is also a helpful addition to plan your busy days. Most importantly, adding and editing events is a cinch.
  • Genius Scan – turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner. It enables you to quickly scan documents on the go and email the scans as JPEG or PDF. It isn’t the prettiest scan but it is effective for signing contracts and other one off scan projects.
  • CardMunch automatically converts business cards into contacts with a click of a button. Perfect when you don’t have a CRM system in place yet.
  • Your Network – I realized quickly that many of the people in my network thrived on my enthusiasm at my new opportunity. They were willing to help me in a variety of ways and teach me some valuable lessons. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your own network. You will find out that the best interactions are when you are able to help someone even more they than they can help you.

3)    There is always more to do – Sure, this is true of any job but it is more important in a startup than ever. My leaving Jackson Lewis was not going to stop them from continuing to grow both in size and revenue. They replaced me with a very smart and savvy internal hire who joined the other 8 marketing managers all brilliant hard workers. At Silverback, there is always something more to do. There is a certain responsibility:

  •       To the CEO who agreed to hire you to help build his life’s dream
  •       To the employees who work tirelessly with one another for a common goal
  •       Most important, to yourself – To know at the end of the day, fail or succeed, you left it all on the line to build something unique and of  value.

4)   Build your own brand – Most startups have little to no marketing money. This fact forces companies to be creative, or in this case choose the option that is right in front of you. Take some time to build your own brand, it will help you meet more people who can help your business, more people who can help your career and it spreads brand awareness. Don’t feel like you have to be on TV, or an author like our CEO Chris Dessi. Before that he was a blogger, reached 500+ LinkedIn connections, and started his own website. These are great first steps that anyone can take to make him or herself more relevant. While anyone can do this, in a Startup you’re encouraged to do this. You have a voice, you have unique experience, and you have value and flexibility to find ways to work with anyone you meet.

Has this been your experience? Add any steps you think I may be missing in the comments below.



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