All incidents and characters mentioned in this post are real and none of it fictional. Any resemblance to any person or organization is purely intentional.

Having spent my post grad and corporate days surrounded by people who were either running a start-up or working in one, I thought I had a fairly good idea of what it is like to work in one. Long hours, no weekends, tight deadlines, unstructured work with little guidance and a highly uncertain environment – this ought to cover it right?  However  jumping on the bandwagon after working in a corporate for close to three years, here are some things I wish I knew earlier:

  1. Being a perfectionist will NOT help you, getting things done will

For my first assignment in my startup job, I wanted to be very thorough and well prepared. So I made a plan, noted down the key points, did some research and made some more plans for implementation.  Only to be asked later in the day why nothing had moved yet. Lesson Learnt…

In contrast to a corporate setting where every proposal would be tweaked, perfected & made to look pretty even before a preliminary review, startups move fast. I guess when you are burning the candle at both ends, there isn’t much time for such niceties.

In a typical day, we would discuss and brainstorm ideas in the morning, implement it in the evening and get it up and running by night.

 So when it comes to getting things done, it’s always GO time and an average working solution is preferred to a brilliant one which is still in conceptualization phase.

2. Experimenting and trying is everything

During the initial few launches that I was part of, I remember wasting hours trying to figure out statistics, trends or anything which could give me some direction. I soon learnt there were none.  So how do you know if your product/idea will work? By trying it out.

When you have no statistics, data insights or even a gut feeling to rely on – which is the case 90% of the time in startups, trying and seeing is most often the only option. If it works well and good, if not you move on.

This is especially true when you are working in a very niche market where data insights start kicking in much later. I can safely say that the initial few weeks are just about shooting in the dark and trying every trick in the book. And ever so often just crossing your fingers and hoping that things works.

3. Getting your hands dirty is inevitable

It is true when they say it’s a very humbling experience to work in a start-up. Why?  Fancy titles and designations don’t hold much value once you step inside the office. Right from assuming a fake identity and becoming a customer care executive for the day because the support team is understaffed to getting the router fixed, I have done it all and so will you.  When all hell breaks loose, which is ever so often ,rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done is all that matters.

4. You will forever be crunched for resources

Start-ups, especially ones which are in the pre-series A stage of funding will always be crunched for the most important resource – people(after money of course).They are forever in hiring mode and day in and out, you will see people come and go, with few actually sticking around. So expect the quantum of work and pressing urgent jobs to always outweigh the people at hand. Hence donning multiple roles is quite mundane.  So mundane that the question, “What is your role” will make you take a deep breath and smile since no matter what you say, no one outside your organization will truly understand what you do, or rather “what all you do”.

5. Uncertainty will become the new normal

By default most of us are very uncomfortable with ambiguity at work and need clear set of rules and guidelines to function. As a result, every now and then you will be plagued by the “What the hell am I doing with my life” syndrome. However, eventually one learns to deal with uncertain timelines, schedules and even place of work. Uncertainty will become the new normal as you learn to let go and take one day at a time.  As they say, it’s the journey which matters not the destination. So strap on your seatbelts and get ready for the ride!

About the Author:

Shachi Prakash handles operations for an e-commerce startup(Sumiran Spiritual).  She loves creating content on productivity, fitness and lifestyle.