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Big Company vs. Start-up

start-upYears ago, I did a start-up in Mexico for 2 years for a big company. Now, I am doing a start-up at a tech company that is small and getting bigger. Having worked most of my 13 years in big branded companies I have some observations and thoughts on the differences between big company and start-up. Particularly on quality of hire and culture fit. In big companies bad hires can hide or fake it, to look good. In start-ups, or better yet...highly visible and transparent cultures, bad hires stick out like a turd on the floor. I have said before the difference between many big companies and a start-up is that in start-ups you know the turd in the room. No matter the company size, you will have bad hires. Nobody is perfect, but do not let turds stay.

Turds in a room can last years in a big company. Start-ups they will be lucky to hit 90 days, luckier to make it past 6 months and God or some higher power is on their side if the hit the 1 year mark. It is not because the company is smaller and things are more noticeable, it is because people work in a successful start-up for a cause bigger than them. Great start-ups are composed of many people who could be doing a hundred different things, but for whatever reason they have rallied around a product/cause or mission. They go to work each day with drink in hand and fight through crowds of people to work there (click through to see pic). They have a purpose.

Mediocre players do not fit in. Since little to no politics exist in start-ups, those who are not pulling their weight or only suck up to the boss/s quickly have no allies or friends. They leave or get asked to leave. I once knew a big executive who made all his staff sell his wife's fundraising jewelry during lunch time. His staff thought it was a horrible idea, but they had to suck up to the man. I'm sure that big executive is still doing his thing. #badexecutive.

Turds in any room think they are privileged. Execs at big companies expect personal jets, boats and cars. Maybe even their own toilet. In start-ups, execs understand they put their pants on the same way anyone else does. In start-ups people watch pennies and get rewarded for doing so.

Alignment. There is no need for the HR department to buy a million dollar online performance management system in hopes of aligning everyone's goals and performance. In start-ups, you know the vision and how to support it. The CEO or anyone knows what you do and you know what they do. If are a turd in the room.

Communication. No matter the news (good or bad), nobody is confused and everyone knows the direction. This takes strong leadership by example, not words on a powerpoint.

I could go on and on and on. I could mention the mutual respect, high energy level, customer obsessed mindset of people OR the damn fun times people have because they can be themselves and trust each other. But the take away here is...

You can be a start-up in a big company and you can be start-up in a start-up. It's bad behaviors and bad leadership that turn a company into a big company. If you want to just have a job to make money and work for a big company, there are lots of jobs open. Find a company, start a company or lead by example at your current company on what you know the purpose of your company or life should be. Call out the turds in a room. They are there to get in the way of your start-up.

You are the start-up. No matter the size of the company, act like a start-up.

Photo credit: Toni F. Mestres