Why wasn’t corporate America right for me?

People always ask me why I decided not to head into corporate America and instead spend my time in the startup world. I usually say that it’s because I want to be more than just another number in a company. However, I’ve been reflecting on this topic more and more, and have realized that my motivation isn’t due to the pitfalls of large corporations, but instead due to everything that is right about young growing companies.

When I went to college, I had the goal of learning how to run my own company or how to make a meaningful difference in someone else’s company. However, as time went on, I kind of lost track of that goal. I had opportunities to work and intern with some of the biggest and most well-known companies in the world, so it was easy to get carried away and worry about the big name on my resumé.

As thankful as I am to the big companies that gave me an opportunity, I just wasn’t happy. There were three things that drove me crazy: 1) When I asked why we were doing something a specific way, and the answer was, “I don’t know, it’s always been done that way.” 2) The slow decision making. Once, we had over 50 different meetings to decide what colored pen was going to be used in guest rooms. 3) Being told that our decisions were never truly urgent because they wouldn’t have an immediate or direct impact.

I could focus on the things that drove me crazy about big companies, but with slight tweaks, I’d rather focus on the things that make me so excited and passionate about startups. Here’s my startup perspective on those same three things:

  1. Why are things being done a specific way?
    This is something that I’m always wondering or asking about. The first reason is because I usually feel like there is a better way to do the task. The second is because I simply want to understand what the purpose of the task is. And third, because time is so limited that I want to make sure that the task is the best use of someone’s time. 
    Two great things can happen by asking this question. One is that you understand and value the system in place, or two, you get to influence a better alternative.
  2. How long does it take to make a decision?
    I am usually not in favor of rushing an important decision just to save time, but at the same time, I’ve realized that spending more time on making a decision doesn’t always mean a better outcome. I am a believer of being efficient, informed, and making a thoughtful decision. I’m also not scared of making mistakes. I’ve often learned more from my mistakes than successes, and as long as you are ready to adapt and react to your decisions, things will work out.
  3. What is the impact of our decisions?
    Even as a little kid, I always considered what my actions would mean to others. Working as a dishwasher, bellman, and housekeeper, I got to experience first-hand what impacts of a “small” decision were. Whether those decisions involved pay rates, schedules, staffing, amenities, or computer systems, they all impacted individuals. So I told myself to always think about the person on the other side of my decisions. Now, the best decisions aren’t always the easiest, but I just know that I can’t take decisions for granted.

Startups aren’t for everyone, but they’ve allowed me to look at the these three big things in a way that is important to me. I’m getting to make decisions that impact the future of the hospitality industry, and that’s more valuable to me than having all the job security in the world.

So I guess at the end of the day, it’s not that corporate America is the wrong fit, it’s that startups are the right fit for me!