If you are going to work for yourself or any company the first thing necessary to understand is why you have made that choice. This reason why will dictate how satisfied you are with your choice.
There was a Gallup survey in 2013 showing that 70% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work. Employees simply don’t care! Of over 150,000 people surveyed only 30 percent admitted they honestly enjoy their job and their bosses. Those who show up but are less than thrilled about it — or “disengaged”— made up the biggest category at 52% of workers. The remaining 18% are people who actively disengaged – those who vocally express their discontent in the workplace.
According to a more recent survey by the Conference Board Research Group, job satisfaction hit a 10-year high, showing improvements but still below 50%.
Having had the experience of working in a job that I hated, I needed to understand why it was the case. Was it me or was I just forcing myself to do something against my will? I conclude that if I was in this position that I must have been going against the foundation of my character, but not even realising it. Money is a strong motivator in the short term but can be a very deceptive motivator for the long term. My unhappiness in spite of a very lucrative package was evidence that the money was not a principle motivation. I had to step back and analyse where the roots of my satisfaction really lie.
One obvious conclusion I made was that it was better for me to earn less and do what I loved doing rather than earn more and be unhappy. In spite of the healthy paycheck I felt like I was wasting my time on a human level, not enjoying everyday. I felt like I was chipping away at the one constantly diminishing commodity that we all have as humans, which is time, and nothing more to show for it than a few bucks more in the bank.
I began searching for companies and/or projects that fit the criteria that would get me excited about getting up and going to work. I found it in small dynamic startups. Even the worst days were incredibly better than anyone of my best days at the large multinationals that I worked in. Ironically I began to earn even more in these startups than I was earning at the larger companies.
I should note that this in not a slight against larger companies. It should be all based on your character. Some people thrive in those situations. I am speaking more about knowing who you are as a person and finding the proper fit for your character.
While I was making this change I knew I was much happier and although I did change my criteria regarding where to work, at the time I was not completely sure what was making the difference so I started to think about the reasons why I found working with startups a much more rewarding experience. This is what I came up with.
1. Dynamic / High Energy
I found that anytime I walked into a startup, working for one or doing business with one, you could always feel the energy. There is a dynamism and buzz that you find in these environments that you rarely find elsewhere. This energy can only come from the people working there and shows the level and motivation that they have, all working towards a common goal.
It is mind-boggling the number of innovations that are coming out of the startup world. No stone is being left unturned. Their disruptive powers are being felt in many industries around the world.
In less than one year, we’ve seen the astonishing effects of what a clever app could do to the NY taxi cartel. Not only has the price of taxi medallions fallen dramatically from a peak of $1 million, it’s not even clear that there is a market remaining at all for these permits. What economists, politicians, lobbyists, writers, and agitators failed to accomplish for many decades, a clever innovation has achieved in just a few years of pushing. No one on the planet could have predicted this collapse just five years ago.
This provides just another bit of proof and power to many or these small companies with innovative ideas that they can make a difference and change the world.
Large companies often speak about their core values but it is clear to see that they often contradict themselves. After all how can you solidify a core value if many of your employees are disengaged from their work? I found that startups tended to take these values more seriously.
There seems to be a set of core values that are common to many startups. They dare to be different, innovative and want a change for the better. They value good communication and transparency at the work place. They value collaboration among their employees that in turn makes the employees feel like they are contributing which in turn inspires them to produce.
We all have personal values also which may clash with any company values. It is not a perfect world, however the fact that somebody wants to be in this environment as opposed to working at a Proctor and Gamble does help to align these like-minded individuals into a more cohesive team.
4. Your input is valued
Startups are great for identifying a great idea regardless of who it is coming from in the company. To have your input valued as an employee is a very motivating factor yet so often not present in large companies. I can also appreciate the fact that there are those that don’t want to think or provide any input. They want to get up, go to work and collect their paycheck. If you find yourself in this position and are completely happy in this environment then there is no discussion.
In a company where you want to provide input yet your suggestions fall on deaf ears, no matter how brilliant and innovative they may be, can be a very demotivating experience. Statistics have shown that those who are properly allowed to grow in the workplace often stay with their companies longer.
5. Team spirit
Startups are usually a manageable size to where you can know just about everybody by their first name. I enjoyed this aspect in a company. It does create a team spirit among the workers. I listened to a CEO speak about team spirit in a company of 15,000 employees he was managing. However, when you looked at his actions they were far from providing a good example of what kind of team spirit he expected of others. I believe that there is a point where the company gets so large that expecting everybody to be acting as a team becomes extremely difficult and probably shouldn’t even be expected.
Startups are often built on the foundation of this kind of spirit and it is often that spirit that helps to catapult them to the next level.
6. No crazy hierarchies
The hierarchy in startups is often very flat and I love that aspect. As a developer or designer, you can explain to the founders why you think things should be changed. How often in any other business structure can you walk into the office of the CEO and propose an idea that they might actually consider implementing?
A hierarchy is necessary because everybody has their responsibility and it keeps the structure manageable. This is fine, as long as everyone involved feels like they’re an important and valued part of the team.
7. You have your pulse on the market
I have seen that because startups are often on the cutting edge and constantly looking for areas to innovate, that they have the pulse of the market in their chosen industry. They are forging a direction forward. I felt like in every startup I was involved in that I was watching the events unfold from the first row. This was incredibly exciting to me. I would talk to other friends in other businesses and areas away from the startup scene and always got the impression that there was all this change happening but they were completely oblivious to it.
8. Variety, constantly changing
Startups exist to make change happen. They change routines, ideas, systems, established products and processes. In my mind startups = change! If you are someone who requires things to stay the same then this can be an unsettling experience. The truth is the world changes everyday and eventually, like it or not, it will disrupt your way of thinking and doing things as an individual. Just take the smartphone revolution for example. If you don’t embrace these changes you will find yourself quickly isolated from the rest of the world. If you enjoy change and embrace it then the startup environment is where to find it.
9. Goal oriented
Startups are extremely focused. They know what they want to achieve and they go for it. There is a great joy working with others all working towards a common goal. The founders are the ones with the initial vision but they are nothing without a dynamic team set to attempt to reach that goal.
Not all startups will manage the challenges necessary to reach these goals and quickly find themselves in dissolution. However, that is the nature of the beast. At least you have satisfaction in giving it your best try, which leads me to the next reason I prefer startups.
Let’s face it the startup world is a scary one when it comes to job security. Many more startups go under in comparison to those that experience great success. At the same time I found that startups thrive off of that. It makes them want to work harder. It keeps them on their toes.
I believe that there is a great false sense of security that employees feel from working with a large long established company. Like it or not should the economy dictate a change in consumption patterns, these large companies often go through massive layoffs.
If you understand the risks you put yourself going into any situation then you are much better prepared to deal with any changes. The positive side is that there are more and more startups being created all around the world and just as many investors who are willing to support them. These companies are always looking for talent.
11. They are a great network builder
Last but not least, the startup world is incredibly friendly. The people in it thrive through networking and spreading their influence through whatever channels they have. It attracts young, ambitious, entrepreneurial people who want to share their work with others. It also attracts experienced, knowledgeable people with years of previous startup successes and failures to learn from. It’s a community of people who want to share with each other.
(The founders of The Hutch Report have collectively years of experience working with startups as Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships Carrier Partnerships, VP of Services, Project managers, Marketing Managers, Marketing Directors and as a founders).