10 Reasons Why You SHOULD Join a Startup: Part I

I’m a big fan of startups. I interned with startups, I’ve worked at startups (and currently work at a startup), and I support startups, so when I read John Rampton’s “10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Join a Startup” via, I took it a little personally. Startups don’t have the best reputation, I get it. They’re flakey, unstable, here today gone tomorrow. But it’s a reputation that’s undeserved.


There are, of course, pros and cons to joining a startup, as there are when joining a major international agency, but I feel that a person’s reasons for working at either are mutually exclusive: some go after the money, others follow their passion. Rampton states that joining a startup could change your personal and professional life, and I truly believe that it does… for the better.


Here are 10 reasons why (in my opinion) you SHOULD join a startup:


1. You will get paid. There’s this assumption that because it’s a startup, there is not enough money to go around, but startups wouldn’t hire people if they couldn’t afford to have them. The salary you’re offered probably won’t be as high as you would like it to be if you’re experienced, or it may be higher than you’re used to if you’re entry-level.


In my professional and personal experience, money doesn’t mean happiness (it wouldn’t be a cliché if it wasn’t true!). You could make double the salary at a bigger agency and have no work-life balance, a toxic boss, ridiculous hours, etc., and for what, a better paycheck that you can’t enjoy? Been there, done that, was miserable the entire time.


Don’t not take the job with the startup because the pay is not what you think you’re worth. The experience you will gain will be invaluable, the startup will see and appreciate your worth, and I promise you it will get you to where you want to be. You have to start somewhere!


2. You may not land a role on the executive team. But you just might. Everyone has to climb up the ladder, no position will just be given to you. You want the role of CMO? Show the CEO you have what it takes. Could it take years to get there? Sure, but nothing happens overnight. What if the role doesn’t exist? Create it. One of the best things about working at a startup is that thoughts and opinions (that provide value) are welcome. If you think a position/title should be offered that’s not, speak up. More likely than not, your boss may agree and if funds are available (and necessary), that position could be created – and you just might be the person to write the description for it, or fill it!


And don’t worry so much about titles – industries and companies use them differently, so while you may be “Senior” at one company, you could be “Assistant” at the next.


3. Some startups fail. And some don’t. Rampton states that there’s a “very real chance” that the startup will fail (citing a Wall Street Journal study, which found that 3 out of 4 startups between 2004-2010 failed). I personally have a problem with studies for a number of reasons which I won’t go in to, so I’ll just say that I wouldn’t give that study too much weight in your decision to join a startup.


If you’re concerned about the “status” of a startup you’re interested in and/or interviewing for, ask questions. Many questions. Specific questions. Do your research online, ask people in your circles if they know anything about the company and the people. If you sense in the interview and/or email exchanges that something is not right, you’re reading/hearing that the company is not doing well, then go with your gut. But don’t be afraid to take a chance, either, especially if it’s for a company that you really, truly believe in, and genuinely want to see it succeed, and you have ideas on how to gain that success.


4. You’re going to work really hard. I hope that no matter where you end up working, you’re going to work really hard. Here’s the difference, and this is why I love startups: each day is not the same. Like I stated in the beginning of this post, I’ve worked at the major international agencies and I’ve worked at the boutique agencies, and let me tell you something, there’s a big difference in the “work” part.


Yes, you have the same responsibilities and clients and deadlines, but with startups there is far more flexibility in the day-to-day. The structure is not so solid; there’s room for improvement, suggestions, ideas, changes. You, in a sense, help to build the startup (or keep it growing) – you’re a piece of the building block so your input is valued, important, and, quite frankly, necessary. At an established company, you are a tack on the ladder and trying to change anything or point anything out, well, don’t bother having to deal with the bureaucracy of it all. Unless something is absolutely unacceptable, it’s best to keep things to yourself because not doing so might actually hurt you.


And don’t be deterred by Rampton’s statement that “you might work like a maniac for an excessive amount of hours each week because the startup is in a race to beat the clock”. Sure, that happens, but this is not the “norm”. With any job, if there are many deadlines arriving around the same time, of course you’re going to work around the clock to meet them. If there’s a big client event next week with top tier press attendance, yes, you will be working long hours, evenings, weekends… but that all comes with the territory, no matter which industry you’re in or who you work for.


And I would think that you choose to work at a startup because you feel a connection to it, you are passionate and excited about the product/service, not just because it’s the only job offer you get. If that’s the case, then it doesn’t really feel like “work”, does it? You’re just doing what you love, and getting paid for it, no matter the work schedule. What could be better?


  • Number 4 brings me to another point, which wasn’t mentioned in the original “10 Reasons”: In a startup, as with any company/organization, there are titles: you know who the boss is, you know whom the CMO and interns are, but you don’t feel like anyone is “above” or “below” you. Startups truly feel and function like a team, because you’re all working towards the same goal: a successful, growing, thriving business. I have experienced very few negative “typical corporate atmosphere attitudes” (read: toxic environments) at the startups I have worked at, and am currently working at. No one is out to “get” another person because no one will “profit” – if anything, the startup will suffer, and then everyone loses. However, the same can’t be said for established organizations – there is far much more to gain (and lose) when there are many “I”s in the “teams” (which there are). Choose your poison wisely.


5. Your list of responsibilities may be lengthy. Let’s be honest – if they aren’t lengthy, you should be worried.


Rampton states that “you may be asked to do multiple jobs” and “startup jobs also include the same mind-numbing responsibilities that the big companies have.” I agree. Like I stated in point 3, you won’t know any specifics unless you go on an interview and ask questions. There is no negative to either situation, it just depends on what you prefer. Do you like wearing multiple hats or knowing exactly what you have to do? I’m the first – I love unpredictability, I thrive off of not know what is going to happen next, I enjoy constantly ‘getting my feet wet’ in different areas and always learning and experiencing new things. Then there are others who don’t like change; they need structure and a guide to follow, which is perfectly fine, too.


It also depends on what, and how much, you want to get out of your job and how you see your future. I personally don’t think maintaining status quo is something that should be strived for – I think you should always be challenged, and challenge yourself, in anything and everything that you do, otherwise you don’t learn or grow.


As I mentioned in point 4, startups (should, I hope) welcome constructive criticism and valuable feedback. New ideas need to be thrown around, inspiration boards need to be created, trends need to be followed and implemented. If you want to wear a different hat or sombrero or baseball cap, or try on a new one, perhaps of a different size, let someone know. Trust me when I say that you will only get out of your experience what you put into it, so prove your worth and make it priceless.


Stay tuned for part II…


Reach & Reverse Engineer Your Way to Success

I was unceremoniously fired in 2009 from my job at Buddy Media. When it happened I was so stunned I couldn’t speak. Literally. No words. Nothing. In slow motion I gathered my things and left. The Director of HR escorted me past a gauntlet of gawking colleagues and into the elevator. I felt naked. 

The elevator doors closed and it dawned on me. Stunned, I turned to her and blurted out, “My wife is pregnant, what will I do?”

I was “pushed” off the cliff but I refused to let myself fall.

Reaching as far as I could, I set a new goal: I’d never let anyone else have control over my income or my future.

From that goal, I reverse engineered and started my own business.

Soon I stopped falling and started climbing, even gliding. Eventually, my voice came back, my confidence returned.

Today, I am soaring.

1. Don’t over think it. If you do it will just scare you and freeze you in place.

We all have fear. Some is innate, activating our fight or flight instincts. Some fear, however, is learned. That fear is insidious. It seeps into our unconscious paralyzing us to the point where we choose “safety” over pursuit of our passions. I believe that “learned fear” is the disease of our time. Battle it by taking baby steps. My first step was silent contemplation, and meditation. Another was obsessive note taking. The last step was challenging myself to dream as big as I possibly could, imagining that money was no object, and stepping toward that challenge. I had nothing to lose. Neither do you.

2. Keep moving and work in broad strokes. Set the roadmap, and the details will fall into place.

I had been challenging myself to think of a big idea that would motivate me and propel my business. While I was searching, I stumbled upon the Long Island Digital Summit. I fell in love with the concept. A few Google searches confirmed that there was no Westchester Digital Summit to speak of. Green pastures lay before me…

The point here is to reach as far as you can conceive. Spend time on the ideas that are outside the realm of normalcy. Innovate, but above all, execute. Innovation does not exist without execution. I made the commitment to execute when I navigated over to and for a whopping $7.99, purchased the URL

3. Those who don’t believe in you or your vision are poison. Leave them. Immediately.

I approached my former business partner with the idea of the summit, and he balked. “That will take a great deal of work”…no kidding, I thought. A few months later I chose to leave my business partner and ventured out on my own. I wanted to make the Westchester Digital Summit a reality. I felt it in my gut. I reached out to someone I knew who could help — John Zanzarella, Jr.

4. Surround yourself with likeminded people who will support your vision.

I had met John Zanzarella Jr. while he was still at Jackson Lewis. When I spoke to him, he mentioned that his Dad has been doing this type of work for years with Zanzarella Marketing. We shook on it that day — 50% 50% partners. We needed speakers. I reached for someone from Facebook. They signed on. I reached for the person who motivated me to get into social media, Gary Vaynerchuck. He joined as our keynote. John and I discussed a venue. I wanted the County Center. It held 3000 people. I wanted 3000. We got 755, but if I hadn’t reached for 3000 we’d have never had as many as we did.

5. Being a touch delusional is OK.

When I first shopped around the idea for The Westchester Digital Summit, most hedged. I was convinced that LinkedIn and Facebook would send speakers. People snickered and guffawed. In the end, I had to turn away over 37 applicants for speakers who wanted to be involved. Since last year’s event I’ve purchased sixty-seven URLs like,,, you get the idea. In less than two years, Silverback Social has ballooned to seven full time employees and our revenue has increased 2,927%

This year’s event will be at the Ritz in White Plains on May 15th. We’ll host speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, David S. Kidder, and Ghislaine Maxwell. General Electric, The Financial Times, IBM, Facebook, Linkedin, RebelMouse, Fox Sports and ESPN are speaking as well.

Take a pledge to fulfill your own greatness. Reach as far as you can, reverse engineer and pursue your passion.

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.



4 Steps to Better Thinking for Your Business

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare.

We’ve created systems that allow for our  team to think differently so that we’re in a near constant state of innovation.    The act of thinking and the process of coming up with more imaginative ideas and then taking action is a much more scientific method than most like to admit.  Innately we know this.  Here are four ways to provoke thought that work for us that I’d like to share:

1.   Start with Simple

Understand the simple stuff deeply.  Seek where you’re missing expertise, dig in to learn it, and learn it inside and out, and then move forward.  In my business we have become so good at the simple processes that we have taken a process in social media that any business owner with the right motivation could certainly DIY themselves, but because it’s become so fluid, so simple and so efficient, we now add exceptional value.  Because we spent the time that our clients don’t have we can now offer innovative ways to approach every social media campaign from a different perspective.  Learn the simple stuff and build on that.  You can’t play a concerto without first knowing the scales.

2.    Screw it up. 

Every so often we mess up, and that’s OK.  Lately however I’ve been pushing myself and my team to color outside the lines intentionally. Empower your team to take risks and make small mistakes. This is the only way you’re going to learn and push the line of standard. Allow for your junior people to step up and take risks as well.  Sheltering them in process and protocol only hurts their development and the innovation of your team. Trust them, trust that you’ve hired well, and allow for them to make mistakes.

3.   Ask hard Questions:

Raise questions to clarify and extend your understanding.  The right questions will help you see connections that you will miss otherwise.   This is a tricky one.  You don’t want to create an environment when everything is being questioned, but enquiring properly and from a pure place, and create an environment where asking “why” is accepted practice.

4.   Look behind you.

When the new ideas start to pop up you need to step back, take a breath and see where they came from.  Close your computer, sit with a piece of paper, and think about where the last innovative idea came from within your organization.  Ask for help. Inquire internally and see if you can document the last time someone really cracked things open.

My most recent big innovation came while traveling. I was alone in my hotel room, reviewing our processes and challenging myself to improve, push, grow and expand the business beyond what I could conceive.  I asked myself – “what would you do at Silverback if money was no object”, and it hit me.   I began to roadmap my idea. I pinged my team to bounce the idea off them, and we got to the business of making it happen.  Now I try to calm my mind and ask that same question over and over and over “what would you do at Silverback if money was no object.”

At first blush it all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  We all want to come up with more imaginative ideas for our business, but when will we find the time?   When we’re left to our own devices we go off on tangents, but when we take the time to outline and frame our course of action, everything falls into place. The basic methods are fundamentally the same in school, business, arts, personal life, and sports.  Those methods can be described taught and executed.

I love what I do, and I’m lucky, but I find that thinking …real, deep, introspective thinking has become such a rare commodity that I have had to find a road map to become more efficient in my thinking, otherwise I drift off into unproductive daydreaming.  I’m sure you feel the same way.   We’re in the ever-constant mode of doing, and we rarely have the time to become introspective and really think about the issues that hold us back from over performing.   Over the years I have become exceptionally proficient at this process.  I shut everything down, pull out my notepad and think.

Brilliant innovators create habits of thinking that lead to break through and innovation.  There are practical and proven methods that lead to these breakthroughs.  Education doesn’t stop with your college days.  Learning habits of thought that equip you with the tools to take on everyday life will be invaluable to your success.  You will create an environment of innovation, support and through providing systems that will allow for you company to outperform, outshine, and out smart your competition.   Looking at the world differently by creating habits of mind that frame the world around you differently will change your game.

Transformative ideas means surrounding yourself with people that will challenge you, not by surrounding yourself with the same peers you’ve encountered in the past.  Putting yourself in situations that challenge you and take you by surprise is hard.  My friend Justin Brown is a business owner, and he challenges me every single time I sit with him.  Last week he turned to me and said “do the shit that is hard.”  Simple, right? Wrong.  Seek difficult bumps in your business.  Identify the things that make you cringe and turn toward them.

Creativity is not magical inspiration.  Extraordinary people are just ordinary people who frame problems differently.

Three Things Every Millennial Must Know Before They Work at a Start-Up

When I graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2011, I never would have thought I would be working for a startup company. I had this idea in my head that startups were centered around an idea that had a cool chic logo, and eventually got bought out for millions of dollars. 

I guess I didn’t realize that startups depend on sweat equity.  Without hard work the whole business fails.  Now you may be rolling your eyes saying,

“tell me something I don’t know”

But what people don’t realize is that going the extra mile is a requirement in the startup environment.  You can’t show up at 9am and leave at 5pm on the dot everyday. I realized pretty quickly that if I didn’t put all of my effort into a project I was not only hurting myself, but the whole company as well. If I don’t do the best possible job, I’m only creating more work for my

co-workers when they can be doing 100 other things that can help the business flourish and grow.

Here are three things that every millenial should know before you accept a role at a start-up.

1. All hands on deck!  

At Silverback Social we have 5 employees.  If one person does not come to work, his or her absence is felt tenfold because each employee is an integral part of every project. To do the best work possible participation, feedback and constructive criticism are essential. I can’t even begin to tell you how many things we’ve discovered through an open dialogue.

2. Be patient.   

You have to see the big picture when working at a startup. The startup ride will be bumpy, tedious and arduous.  There are so many things to work on when starting a company from scratch, whether it be writing the company handbook that outlines rules and procedures for employees or creating a document on how to successfully on-board a client. At Silverback Social it took us some time to understand who was good at what, but we all eventually found our roles, which allows us to do client work as well as produce the Westchester Digital Summit.

3. Company culture is important.

I believe that a positive company culture at any business spurs creativitys and passion. The culture at Silverback Social is fun, energetic and extremely focused.  Any and all ideas are listened to and discussed.  This is what makes my experience so unique.  All of my ideas are heard and the good ones are executed on behalf of our clients.  We are challenged to create blog posts, hop on a podcast and think outside the box.  When I wasn’t satisfied with doing community management I was open about it and created a new role for myself, Social Engagement manager.  The company culture and environment made me feel comfortable enough to be that open without being confrontational.


 What’s your experience been? Are you a millennial at a start-up too? Are you loving it or hating it?  Comment below, and let us know!