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The differences between larger companies and smaller ones are many and varied. In a large company, the fundamental truths are reasonably well known. The established company knows things like who the customers are, where the customers are, how much they will pay for product, what they like about the product, what they dislike about the product, how much support they need with the product, etc.
In a start up company, not so much. Discovery is key. Communication is vital.
In a start up company, who the customers are and where they are and how much they will pay are all fundamental unanswered questions. As are what the customers like and dislike or will like and dislike about the product. More is simply unknown than known about the market and product. And not only are things unknown, there is usually a limited time to determine the answers.
All this mystery can be quite confusing to employees new to the start up environment. In a large company, there is less need to discover and frequently a great deal of time available to make these smaller discoveries. These formerly large company employees can enter a small business ill-prepared to succeed even though they are fully capable of doing so.
To change that, here are 5 things you should tell them.
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1. Pursue the truth
Tell your new employees to engage with people who know or should know the answers to the questions above. Ask questions, don't be defensive, accept input, encourage open ended conversations, don't ask loaded questions or preempt responses. Discover as much as possible about customers: their perceptions, their reactions and their thoughts. Always, always, attempt to uncover knowledge, understanding and the truth. This is a voyage of discovery.
2. Communicate whatever you discover widely
Assure your employees that if they believe it to be well sourced, they should communicate whatever is discovered as broadly as possible. For the time being, limit analysis and conclusions. Let the truth stand alone. Find facts and share facts. Let the group form the big picture from everybody's facts. Don't spin or manipulate facts.
3. We are trying to effective, not efficient
Large companies wake up every morning and aim to drive cost out of known working processes through improved efficiency. Small companies should get up everyday to create working processes especially ones that find, sell or service customers. If small companies aren't effective, they don't ever get to try to be efficient. What will work/sell/grow is paramount. Doing it more efficiently comes after, and only after, one has a command of what is going to be most effective.
4. This is a race against time
Tell your employees, "we are in a hurry here", that the small company and they personally need to move quickly. Show me a small company that isn't using time to its advantage and I will show you failure in the making. Smaller size should enable nimble response and agility. Tell your new recruits that if things aren't happening fast enough, they should let you and everyone else know it.
5. There is not them it is just us
The inherent size of large companies and human nature usually gives rise to a "tribal mentality". This mentality conveys that one's first loyalty is to their department (accounting, sales, marketing) or "departmental tribe". And from this, these employees can bring a worldview that departments are tribal or should be -- pitted against one another is the natural state from their point of view. This tribal bias is unavoidable in many large companies. It is ridiculous for a small company. These first time employees need to understand that the tribe is the company, not its departments. In a small company, it is us and us alone. There is no "them" in a small company. And, accordingly, there is no one to blame for our failures. Marketing can't let us down or sales can't fail to deliver -- in a way that everyone in the company doesn't own. It is only us, they must understand, and we -collectively- will succeed or fail.
Many people have told me through the years that they've always wanted to work in a start up. A lot of them view it as much the same as larger company just without the larger company's bureaucracy. And yes, there is or should little bureaucracy, but the differences run deeper and employees that are new to it can benefit from a little explanation.