Moving From a Small Startup to a Bigger Startup
Most of my few readers know by now that I’ve moved on to a new gig as the Content Marketing Manager at Localytics, an app analytics and marketing company.
At 40 people, this is a bigger company than Shareaholic was. I wanted to reflect a little on the experience of working at different sizes of companies, as I’ve now worked at 6-10 person, 40-person and 300-something person companies.
1) Choose the right size company for you
I went to Kent State freshman year of college and transferred after that. I still as clear as day remember walking into my Intro to Mass Comm class and seeing hundreds (and hundreds…) of students in this auditorium and thinking, “Oh my GOD I made a huge mistake here.” Honestly, I’m an introvert. We’re not frequenting festivals and conventions and stuff for fun over here. This kind of shit intimidates me.
When oneforty was acquired by HubSpot, I went from working for a 6-person company to a 300-something person company overnight. I know that compared to the Salesforce’s, Oracle’s and IBM’s of the world, a few hundred people is nothing. But it was quick the change of pace for me, and I wish I had been self-aware enough (or honest enough with myself) to anticipate how stressful that would be and had prepared myself accordingly.
Going from a 9-person team to a 40-person team is an easier transition and a more manageable change of pace for me. I’ve already learned how to be a scrappy generalist, how to dig in, how to be decisive and how to GSD. Now it’s time to learn to communicate, delegate and trust other people a little bit. (I’m kind a B player in all of these aspects right now.) I saw myself growing with this company and this vision was a huge aspect of my decision to take the job.
You don’t have to cannonball in to every next step of your career. Sometimes taking baby steps…toes in first… makes more sense.
2) Communicate your vision
When you’re on a small team, you can just fix/do/launch/announce things all on your own. If you really really really like what you do from a tactical standpoint (I do), you’ll love that great freedom to just being able to pull the trigger on decisions and get in there and do things. It’s a very wonderful experience. It’s a mixed blessing though. You’re the only one there to do it, so you’re doing it all on your own. It’s a lot of pressure. Looking back at my previous roles, there’s also a lot of ideas I pulled the trigger on that were pretty dumb or could have been executed better. But I didn’t have to communicate the strategy behind the ideas to anyone who was going to poke holes in my approach, so I did what I did how I did it.
The bigger the company, the more your actions impact others. You need to align your vision with what others are working on to make it a success, and this communication takes time. But it’s cool to get others involved in your ideas and see a team carry them out at a larger scale. Communicating your strategy effectively is the only way you’ll get to enjoy watching that come to fruition though.
Invest time in preparing yourself for meetings. Write short emails with clear directives. Recognize when a method of project management, file sharing or communication just isn’t working. How to tell? If you feel like you said something over and over and over again but people still aren’t clear on what you’re trying to do, your delivery may need a little work.
3) Manage your meetings
If you go to a bigger company, you’ll have more meetings. Guarenteed. It’s because of that communication thing I just talked about.
I actually have a love/hate relationship with meetings. Of course nobody likes when debates drag on and you’re tired or you feel like you aren’t getting any value from the conversation. But sometimes it’s just SO much more productive to get in a room and touch base than to miscommunicate on chat and interrupt work.
Despite the meetings, you still have to get your things done. Openly discuss what’s on your plate and block off your calendar if need be. A good manager won’t make you sit in a meeting that isn’t valuable and is preventing higher priority things from getting accomplished.
4) Manage your email
If you go to a bigger company, you’ll have more email. Guarenteed. It’s because of that communication thing…again.
I was a trainwreck with email when I first graduated college, but I’ve gotten better. I use filters for stuff like new account notifications that don’t need immediate attention. Don’t waste time on getting to “inbox zero” – usually that is a distraction from getting real work done anyway. But don’t let your stuff get out of hand either.
5) Let other people help you
Sometimes, the things you’d spend hours researching on your own can quickly be taught to you through a 1/2 hour conversation with a co-worker from another department. Other team members can help you get up to speed on the product, customers and industry much more efficiently than you can on your own.
So reap the benefits of there being more minds in the room – ask for help!
6) Absorb, absorb, absorb
No company is perfect. (Except for us. We’re geniuses.)
However, a company can’t scale to 30, 40, 50 or 300 people and beyond without having nailed some part of the scaling process – be that product, BD, sales, marketing or all of the above.
Learn as much as you can from the people who helped get the company where it is. It’s a huge advantage of working for a bigger startup that you can easily take for granted when you’re caught up in the day to day of cranking out work. Building your professional network is an ongoing process. Don’t forget that building a network of folks inside your company is important too.
I hope this was helpful should you ever find yourself at a crossroads in your career considering a jump to a larger company.
Anyone else have tips? Lemme know in the comments.