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6 Startup Lessons I Learned From Working In Corporate America

If you’ve left or are considering leaving the corporate machine behind, take these tips with you.

6 Startup Lessons I Learned From Working In Corporate America
[Photo: Flickr user Señor Codo]

We’ve all read stories about innovators who went from crib, to college, to founding multi-million dollar companies. But what about the rest of us who have corporate careers? Are we stuck being cogs in the wheel for life?

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Corporate America has thought of infinite ways to educate and keep its brightest members, but if you have an amazing idea for a business, you can use the best and worst of your time spent working for “the man” to successfully launch your own company.

Here are several tips I learned from working in the corporate world that you can apply to your startup:

1. Keep Track Of Interactions

There is a great deal of value in keeping a record of which customer or potential client you spoke to on a particular date, what you spoke about, and when to follow up. One of the most overlooked keys to success in startup land is making key contacts and then following up with them to grow your business.

You don’t need to invest in expensive software to stay organized; simply resist the urge to pile business cards in a stack on your desk post event. Discipline yourself to type your new contacts into excel along with their contact information and anything relative that you talked about. Then send your follow up emails.

2. Set Goals And Reward Them

Heard of spiffs and President’s Club? These are corporate America’s way of incentivizing their employees to strive towards specific goals and achieve them.

While you may not be able to send yourself and startup staff to Cabo when you make your first major partnership or product release, you can use the concept of goals and rewards to fast track your company’s growth.

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Chart your top five company goals in a highly visible spot in your office and then have each employee think of five tangible ways they can help achieve each of the top five goals.

3. Apply Your Knowledge Creatively

Did you spend years learning Miller Heiman or Six Sigma? You may be so sick of their various mantras and teachings that you could scream, but don’t throw away valuable skills when you tender your resignation. Think about your startup and what it needs to launch. Think of the strengths and weaknesses of your idea, product, and/or team. Then kick back and allow your wealth of corporate knowledge to help you come up with strategies to build bigger, better, and faster.

4. If It’s Not Working, Stop Doing It

One of the downfalls of big business is that a company’s large size can make it difficult to employ quick changes. As a startup, you are nimble and have the ability to stop whatever isn’t working immediately. If you’re using a technology or method that is more time consuming than helpful for your business, axe it. There’s no need to save face in a boardroom, simply find a better tool to assist you in attaining your goals and move on!

5. Don’t Work To Work

The 9-to-5 workday doesn’t necessarily apply to startups. Many times you’re working 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but when there is a lull in the insanity you don’t have to sit at your desk all day to make it look like you’re working. Taking time away from the office is incredibly valuable to your creativity and mental health. You’ll find that when you’re engaged in a hike or relaxing with friends or colleagues you’ll find the answer to a problem you’ve been working on.

6. Replace Conference Calls With In Person Meetings

If you need to work with someone on a project or check in on their progress, meet with them in person. You will find that both sides will be much more prepared for an in-person meeting and that you’ll accomplish your goals much more succinctly than if you had a conference call. Subconsciously you place more value on face-to-face time, so you will be less likely to fill your calendar with senseless meetings that might sneak in as calls.

Whatever your career past, you can and should draw on your prior learning and skills from corporate America to build your startup. Remember, the giant entity you work(ed) for was once a small idea that led to the creation of a company. Use the things that made that company successful to fuel the success of your own idea!

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Danielle Tate is a name change expert, on-camera personality, writer, author of a top-rated Google newlywed blog and a bridal magazine contributor. It was a 13-hour struggle to change her name after getting married in 2005 that prompted Danielle to leave her medical sales career to develop and launch MissNowMrs.com. Wanting to save other brides countless hours of hassle, Danielle researched name-changing laws and rules in all 50 states to streamline and implement her three-step, 30-minute online service.

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