What I’ve Learned Working At Startups That I would Otherwise Have Not

When I graduated from college back in 2010, I was elated at securing a job at a large multi-national corporation. The swanky office, the comfy cab rides, the fancy corporate credit cards, and tons of the other so-called ‘perks’ that came with the job — it all felt so nice and made me feel like I’d arrived!

Fast-forward five years to 2015, now I cannot imagine going back to working at a big organization. The reason is simple and straightforward– I now very well know and have experienced what exactly is it that I stand to gain working at startups that large organizations can never offer me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked at three startups (two early-stage and one growth-stage) so far in my career, and the opportunities that I‘ve gotten working at these places have helped me grow personally and professionally at a pace I hadn’t even expected.

Having said that, it’s not like I occasionally do not miss the comfort and the relatively easy and predictable life that comes with working at large organizations; and neither has working at startups been a completely smooth ride so far — I’ve seen major setbacks that I might’ve not had I stuck to the conventional path. But, I have nothing to complain about because I believe — I’ve gained more than I’ve lost; I’ve moved forward more than I’ve been pushed backwards; I’ve been happy more than I’ve had tears. It’s infact the temporary pain which makes the journey even more exciting and gratifying.

While all my three startup stints so far have been extremely rewarding and have enabled me to do meaningful work and build some great relationships, I would like to use this space to share a few learnings from my current role at Lybrate.com. (For those of you who don’t know what Lybrate does — It is a VC-funded healthcare-tech startup that envisions seamlessly connecting doctors and patients online and through mobile apps). The fact that the company was founded and is run by an ex-Facebook guy pretty much reflects from the extremely open and number-oriented work culture that exists here. It’s been a great experience and a lot of learning working closely with the founder over the last five months that I’ve been here for.

Here are the 7 most important things I’ve learned or have understood better working at Lybrate:

  1. Make each core team member responsible for at least one number — Show faith in your team and give each one complete responsibility for one or more core metrics. Measure each team member’s performance based on whether the concerned metrics are moving in the expected direction or not. Nothing can motivate the team as much as accepting that responsibility as a challenge and you can rest assured they will give their best to exceed expectations.
  2. The amount of effort you put in doesn’t matter, the final results do — Irrespective of whether you are in office for 6hrs a day or 14hrs a day, whether you are working from office or from home, the only thing that matters most is the output. Work smart, not just hard.
  3. Prioritize and then focus crazily- There are a lot of things that can be improved in a startup, but learn to prioritize and think where spending your time will move the core metrics the most. Once you’ve identified the priorities, focus completely on them. If something besides your responsible tasks is bothering you, let the concerned team member know, share your inputs and move on.
  4. Learn to disagree, reason out, then agree or agree to disagree, and move on — You don’t have to agree to everything your colleagues say, not even to what your CEO says if you think you have a reason to disagree. Take a stand, ensure you make your point of view heard, but then also be wise enough to know when to stop arguing and to get back to executing.
  5. Run a lot of experiments but don’t run them blindly — Ensure you have sufficient data from before and after the experiments to measure their true effectiveness. Even if it takes an extra two days to put the data tracking in place, it might be worth it. This is important for your learning and future experiments.
  6. Combine data with intuition — Never let go of your intuitions while building or growing a product, but at the same time don’t let them alone drive your decisions. Look for as much data as possible to support them.
  7. Paisa hona chahiye par saath mein pyaar bhi hona chahiye (translation: You need to be compensated well for what you do but at the same time you also need some love) — Last but not the least, no doubt you should expect to be compensated as per your abilities, but what is more important is the bonding between you and your team members. If you don’t enjoy working with them, no (sane) amount of money can make you stick around for long. Make it a point to have lunch together, go out for drinks, and do fun activities (we’ve even done crazy things like spontaneously organizing and taking part in a 24-floor running race, making buckets-full (literally) of Thandai, etc.)

The other important thing that I’ve learned over the last three years is that it doesn’t matter (not speaking in monetary terms) whether the startup that you’re a part of goes on to become a billion-dollar Godzilla or fails to take off as expected. In both cases, you can be sure that you will not be deprived of a wonderful life-changing experience! For those of you who are not yet part of a startup, go ahead and join one or start one. You will never regret your decision.

As a shameless side note, I want to mention that all of us at Lybrate are extremely excited and optimistic about the opportunities that exist in the healthcare-tech space in India, and hope to build India’s first truly successful startup in that space. If what we do at Lybrate and how we do it excites you as well, feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn or Facebook or just drop me an email at gaurav@lybrate.com — we’ve openings across all domains — product, design, tech, content, operations, etc., and also competitive compensations and benefits in place for the right people. ☺

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

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