If you are on the fence about taking a job at a startup or early in your career and wondering whether corporate life is for you, you’re in the right place. While the startup community is not for everyone, there are specific lessons you will learn much more quickly at a startup than anywhere else. In a fast-paced environment—frequently with limited structure or standardized processes—the right individual will not shy away from the ambiguity. Not only will you learn fast, but these lessons will stick with you wherever you go.
One of the fundamental lessons you’ll learn at a startup is the importance of agility. Startups thrive on the ability to adapt quickly to changing market dynamics and customer needs. Rigidity can be detrimental to success in such a fast-paced environment. By being open to change and embracing agility, you’ll discover the value of pivoting, iterating, and constantly improving products, services, and strategies. The best part is that you’ll more than likely directly impact how these things are developed at the ground level.
Startups often have limited resources and a lean team, so there is ample room to take ownership and initiative. You’ll quickly realize that your contributions matter significantly and that you’ll have the freedom to make an impact beyond your defined role. By taking ownership of tasks and projects, you’ll learn to be proactive, resourceful, and accountable for outcomes. There are few work environments where a sense of responsibility and an entrepreneurial mindset can be so quickly instilled.
Startups are synonymous with risk-taking, and failure is an inherent part of the entrepreneurial journey. As you progress in your startup role, you will learn to see failures as learning opportunities rather than setbacks. In a startup environment, mistakes are often embraced as valuable feedback that helps refine strategies and products. This mindset shift will allow you to embrace failure as an opportunity for growth, iterate quickly, and continuously improve.
Startups thrive on collaboration and teamwork. With small teams and diverse responsibilities, you’ll learn the importance of fostering a collaborative spirit. Startups often require individuals to wear many hats and work across various domains. By working in a startup, you’ll have the opportunity to broaden your skill set and be exposed to different aspects of business operations. You’ll learn to appreciate the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, leveraging diverse perspectives to solve complex problems and drive innovation.
At the core of any successful startup is a deep understanding of the target customers and their pain points. As a result, communicating regularly with customers may become a necessity. By working closely with customers, you can develop a customer-centric mindset. You’ll learn to actively listen, empathize, and translate customer feedback into actionable insights. No matter what field you enter next, this lesson will reinforce the significance of building products and services that truly address customer needs, ensuring a sustainable and loyal customer base.
This blog was written by Viaduct’s Senior Talent Consultant & Executive Recruiter, John Jameson.
The current economic climate presents unique challenges for startups, especially those in their early stages. Startups must be agile and adaptable to succeed in a competitive and rapidly changing business environment. Making strategic cost-cutting decisions, leveraging your current talent pool, optimizing systems and processes, and driving performance management can position you for long-term success and growth.
1. Tightening financial markets are making it difficult for startups to secure the funding needed to grow and sustain operations requiring founders to be strategic in their approach to cost-cutting.
2. Focusing on retaining top talent is critical for the success of any organization, but it can be particularly challenging for startups, which often face intense competition for skilled workers.
3. Driving performance management is essential for startups to maximize the potential of their employees.
4. Optimizing systems and processes is essential for startups to achieve their business goals efficiently and effectively. By taking a systematic and data-driven approach to optimize systems and processes, startups can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the quality of their products or services.
Startups that can navigate the challenges of the current business environment and position themselves for long-term success and growth will be the ones that succeed. By staying agile and adaptable and making strategic decisions, firms can create sustainable businesses that thrive in even the most challenging market conditions.
This blog was written by Peter Petrella.
In the startup arena, limited resources combined with dwindling capital can make it challenging to gain a competitive edge. Startup founders must be strategic in their budgeting efforts because the tightening financial markets have made it increasingly difficult to obtain the funding needed to expand and scale business operations and staff. A part-time fractional C-suite executive can provide your startup with leadership, expertise, and strategy at a fraction of the cost of hiring the same executive as a full-time employee.
What is a fractional executive?
According to Forbes, fractional hiring is today what freelance work was 20 years ago. A fractional executive is a high-level professional who works part-time or on a project basis for a company, typically in C-suite roles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, or CTO.
Fractional executives are hired by startups, small businesses, and companies in transition or growth stages who need access to specialized expertise but don’t require or can’t afford a full-time executive. Fractional executives work remotely or on-site, providing strategic leadership, guidance, and implementation advisory support for a specific business area.
Startups should consider hiring fractional executives based on their specific needs and resources, but there are many factors to consider. We’ll dig into those here.
In the same vein as the value an experienced freelancer can provide to a startup without the commitment of a full-time salary, benefits, etc., a fractional executive can offer you the full scope of their expertise and industry relationships without the price tag of a full-time C-level executive. Several benefits come with this strategy.
While there is much to gain for early-stage startups hiring fractional executives, some things worth considering could make for a not-so-great outcome. The concept is still in its early stages, and you won’t find one strict way of introducing this role to your close nit startup team, so the following are some considerations to be aware of.
If you are on the fence about introducing a fractional executive into your startup environment, there are a few factors you can consider to help you make the decision:
Need help finding a fractional executive? Hiring a fractional executive can be a smart and strategic move for startups and small businesses that need access to specialized expertise and leadership but don’t require or can’t afford a full-time executive. Before deciding whether to hire a fractional executive, it’s important to consider your startup team’s specific needs and resources, the market conditions for that particular role, and the compatibility of the fractional executive with the company culture and team dynamics. Doing so will maximize the potential benefits of hiring a fractional executive and effectively achieve your long-term goals.
Are you looking to gain part-time, on-demand access to experienced leaders at a fraction of their full cost? Are you seeking specific help to strategically guide your leadership team’s key business decisions to minimize costly mistakes? Learn more about Viaduct’s services here.
This blog was authored by Carl Kutsmode.
So, you’re a leader at a startup. Let us start by saying this role is not for the faint of heart.
Your startup team is the backbone of your organization. Their satisfaction with, and engagement in, your leadership can impact everything from new product features to customer satisfaction.
Your role as a startup leader will set the tone for the company’s culture and direction. A strong leader can inspire and motivate their team to achieve great things, while a weak leader can derail the entire operation.
Whether you’re a founder, a manager, or an employee who would like to advance someday, understanding the importance of leadership in a startup is essential for achieving your long-term goals.
We’ll walk through six leadership strategies to meet startup employee needs and expectations:
Your startup team will turn to you as a leader for reassurance about the company’s direction and motivation to keep pushing when they inevitably spread thin.
Not everyone is cut out to take on a leadership role at a startup. But, if it’s something you pursue, these six strategies should be part of your ongoing development.
Startup employees are notoriously scrappy and ambitious. It’s often implied that by joining a small team at the start, they are looking for a foundational experience that will lead to growth down the road. As a leader, it’s your job to foster more leaders.
Make sure you clarify your team’s growth goals at the start. You might find some of your team is happy to execute while others are motivated by the idea of promotion. Once you know what your team prefers, put structure in place to allow them their desired path.This can look like:
With day-to-day operations at the top of your mind, it can feel challenging to take a step back and focus on your employees’ development. However, when employees feel dissatisfied with their growth and direction, company morale will decrease, which can have ripple effects across the organization.
Your job as a startup leader is to encourage, provide tools for, and allow growth inside your startup.
If you’ve experienced it, you might agree: Going to work each day and fearing for your job is one of the worst feelings for a startup team. Even if their job is perfectly safe, they might be so worried about losing it that their performance suffers.
The best way to avoid your team feeling this way is to make it abundantly clear what the priorities are for the company and, in turn, what each employee’s specific outcomes should be.
In doing so, every employee will know exactly what is expected of them, and whether they are meeting those expectations.
This can be done weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the priority or key performance indicator. Whatever you decide, it should be a clearly defined expectation—”We need three new features per month.”—rather than a vague sentiment—”We need you to keep coming out with features.”
You will be amazed at how putting your employees at ease in this way increases their ability to focus and filter tasks.
Perhaps one of the worst things you can do as a leader is not practicing what you preach. If you require employees to be in the office, don’t work from home when you feel like it. If you need employees to stay late, don’t scoot out early. If you require employees to submit performance reviews, ensure you are doing the same.
You get the idea.
Whatever you and your fellow leadership team have decided are key behaviors to build and foster your culture, make sure you are embodying these.
It’s easy to get so caught up in your ongoing responsibilities that there is little room for much else. But startup employees often seek a deep, rich work experience that allows them abundant career growth.
Mentorship is an excellent way of providing this to your employees.
Offer them time out of their workday to seek out and meet with a mentor if they so choose. Even better, seek out and meet with a mentor yourself. Your employees will appreciate a top-down ethos that clearly states: I have room to grow and am open to being guided by someone who knows more than me.
Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson said, “Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.”
You can talk about culture as much as you want, spend lots of time identifying core values, and update your brand guidelines to reflect what you want your culture to be. But at the end of the day, your culture is your team, and your team is your culture.
If you say your culture is open to feedback but consistently hire individuals who are not open to feedback, your employees will suffer. If you say your culture pursues growth, but the executives you hire are all ego, your employees will suffer. If you say your culture prioritizes work-life balance, but you hire managers who send emails at 11 p.m. and expect a reply, your employees will suffer.
Not only will your employees suffer, but they will also become completely disillusioned by your statements about culture, vision, and values.
Perhaps the most critical strategy we can suggest is hiring people who reflect your culture and values.
The final strategy for effective startup leadership is to trust who you hire.
Your employees are joining your organization because they want to be entrusted with building something from the ground up.
If you bring in eager employees and then micromanage them to death, you will most likely drive them right back out the door.
Understandably, as a leader, you feel significant ownership over the organization’s output. This mindset can make you prone to wanting the final say on everything that gets produced. Not only is this unsustainable for you, but it will also destroy the morale of your employees.
By trusting your employees to do the job you hired them for, you will empower them to take ownership of their work, and they will begin to develop a founder’s mindset.
As you grow in your startup leadership journey, remember that being a leader is not just about achieving personal success but empowering others to reach their full potential. By employing these six strategies, you authorize your team to recognize and pursue their strengths in your organization’s safe and supportive environment.
This blog was written by Roger Naglewski.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused economic disruptions that could lead to a recession in some industries. Chief Executive Officers in the United States and worldwide feel that slow growth and a recession are their top external worry for 2023. In fact, 60 percent of U.S. leaders don’t expect economies to revive until late 2023 or mid-2024. At the same time, the pandemic spurred changes in the way that people work and consume goods and services, which could lead to a resetting of the economy in the long term. Therefore, you may wonder if we are experiencing a recession or a resetting.
Signs of a recession
Almost two-thirds of economists surveyed by the World Economic Forum predict a recession in 2023. A recession is typically defined as a period of economic decline characterized by a decrease in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increased unemployment rates, and reduced economic activity lasting at least several months. The signs of a recession can vary, but some common indicators include:
1 – A decrease in Gross Domestic Product (GDP): GDP is the total value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders. A decline in GDP for two consecutive quarters is generally considered a sign of a recession. The U.S. GDP has increased 34 percent year over year. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports the following GDP changes:
S&P Global expects “U.S. GDP to decline by 0.3 percentage points from its peak in the first quarter 2023 to its third-quarter trough. If correct, this will beat the 2001 recession as the softest recession in recent history since 1960.”
2 – Rising unemployment: During a recession, many businesses may cut jobs or close entirely, leading to higher levels of unemployment. In the first quarter of 2023, we have seen the lowest unemployment rate in a half-century, with layoffs up nearly fivefold. In the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate went as high as 7 percent and has steadily declined. In March 2023, the unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent—matching the first quarter 2020 pre-pandemic rate—and has fluctuated between 3.5 and 3.7 percent since March 2022.
In the first quarter of 2023, job cuts increased 396 percent from the same period a year ago. The tech industry laid off the most workers, but several other sectors have been affected, including e-commerce, media, and Wall Street. Historically, during recessionary times, we have seen some industries thrive and even grow, including healthcare, financial services, auto repair, stores—home maintenance, grocery, and discount—freight and logistics, utilities, and property management.
3 – Decreasing stock prices: As investors become more pessimistic about the economy, stock prices may decline, reducing consumer and business confidence and leading to further economic contraction. The S&P 500 is up around 7 percent for the year, and there is optimism that the worst may be over.
4 – Decreased consumer spending: As people become more uncertain about their financial situation, they may cut back on spending, which can further reduce economic activity. A February PWC Survey found:
5 – Declining business profits: As demand for goods and services decreases, businesses may see their profits decline, leading to further job cuts and reduced investment. Corporate profits in the U.S. fell 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, after a 0.8 percent gain in the previous period. The S&P 500 first-quarter 2023 earnings decline was -6.6 percent.
Based on the above common indicators, two out of five (decreased consumer spending and profits) point toward a recession. It’s important to note that these indicators are not always present in every recession, and some may be more pronounced than others. It’s also worth noting that economic indicators can be lagging, meaning that they may not fully reflect the current state of the economy until several months after the fact.
Signs of a resetting
A resetting can refer to a fundamental change in the economy’s structure or how people work and live, often driven by technological advancements or shifts in societal values. The pandemic has had far-reaching impacts beyond just health and safety concerns. Many people lost jobs or experienced financial hardship, significantly affecting the global economy. What we are experiencing may not be a recession but, a resetting back to an altered form of pre-pandemic life.
Change in how people work: The pandemic has caused significant changes in how people work and accelerated trends already underway.
The Great Resignation: The Great Resignation is a term used to describe the trend of employees leaving their jobs—a record 47.8 million in 2021 and 50.5 million in 2022—in large numbers. The pandemic caused many workers to re-evaluate their work-life balance and priorities and change their career paths. In return, employers have shifted their focus to increased workplace flexibility, upskilling, and corporate culture, significantly reshaping the labor market and how companies approach talent retention and recruitment.
Compensation adjustments: Companies increased salaries or offered other incentives during the Great Resignation in industries with worker shortages. Many employers stretched their salary guidelines to attract new workers or make counteroffers to employees threatening to quit creating inequity and pay gaps within teams. Employers in the retail (5.0 percent) and restaurant and bar (7.5 percent) industries are still increasing average hourly earnings to counteract labor shortages.
Lack of demand: We are now seeing the U.S. job market showing signs of softening as rising interest rates and slowing economic growth affect hiring. With decreasing consumer spending causing declining business profits, job cuts increased 396 percent from the same period a year ago. Organizations choosing not to enact hiring freezes and layoffs use quiet hiring to acquire new skills without hiring new full-time employees. In fact, 80 percent of workers have been quiet hired. According to Gartner, the three main components of quiet hiring include:
The bottom line
While a recession and a resetting can sometimes coincide, they are distinct phenomena, and the current economic situation may involve elements of both. The pandemic has significantly impacted the labor market, leading to job losses, business closures, and changes in work arrangements. While demonstrating signs of recovery, it is still uncertain how long-lasting the effects of the pandemic will be on employment and the economy as a whole. While economists can provide insights and predictions based on available data and research, the complexity and dynamism make it challenging to define in simple terms and predict with complete certainty.
This blog was written by Carl Kutsmode.