How To Adopt A Startup Mentality, Even If You’re A Multibillion-Dollar Corporation

Take an honest look at how your company functions internally. Even if you bring home billions, it may be time for a change.

How To Adopt A Startup Mentality, Even If You’re A Multibillion-Dollar Corporation
[Image via Shutterstock]

A startup mentality focuses the mind, challenges the body, and can be good for the soul.


I love the scrappy, can-do attitude of early-stage companies–simply walk through the doors and the energy is infectious. The optimism, agility, and ingenuity to create something special, not to mention being new to the world, keeps startup entrepreneurs hyper-focused.

Invariably everything is being rapidly prototyped and refined, and there is always a competitor to beat and an incumbent technology to displace. So a startup’s focus is often outward facing, with a closely connected team running to cross a milestone for funding or fight for survival.

A sizeable company has the obvious benefits of scale, infrastructure, intellectual and financial capital, depth of resources and capabilities, and sustainability–nothing surprises me in terms of what a large organization’s capabilities are. But one of the symptoms of size that I find continuously disappointing is the enemy on the inside, and it often manifests itself at the top with leadership in fighting, politicking, and a lack of genuine teamwork.

If you’re a leader of a large organization, I guarantee you will find significant opportunities for growth performance optimization and cultural transformation by taking a good honest look on the inside at how you function as a company and where you need to change.

With that information, you can confidently direct your focus and efforts on what’s important on the outside. Here are a few tips on how to adopt that startup mentality:

Courageous leaders lead

Leaders who spend their time people pleasing, positioning, and politicking create cultures that don’t move corporations or departments to realize their full potential. It takes a courageous leader to set a vision and challenge the team to define a path, stay the course, and not get distracted by the small stuff. Establishing a clear vision focuses your entire team on a destination they can all take pride in building together.


Put purpose before pride and values before greed

When profits come before purpose, personal pride usually overshadows shared values and you can clearly see the trail of dysfunction and destruction. Inside many large organizations, greed and pride are the result of short-term, results-driven incentive schemes that fail to align individual leaders around a brand’s greater purpose and operating principles.

Train as a leadership team so you can play like a team

Just like a great soccer team trains together so they can cumulatively play to win, a great executive team spends time getting to know each other. They are coached, encouraged and challenged to collaborate together. There are no sarcastic comments when another member of the team speaks. There are no meetings before the meeting.

Come together, play together, and strive for a common goal. Learn to play like a team and heed the wise words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is the start. Staying together is progress. Working together is success.”

About the author

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision.