I love startups, and I think its partly because I’ve had amazing experiences working/interning at startups that shaped my view of entrepreneurship. While working under some startup founders, I noticed inspiring habits of theirs that makes work really fun and satisfying for me and other startup employees working under them. In fact, I’m constantly trying to apply these habits to my own startup projects. So here are 7 of the most inspiring habits of startup founders I’ve noticed:
- Caring about how much I learn: My first startup internship was when I was 18. I was just out of high school on a gap year and was only beginning to familiarise myself with the lean startup, blank canvas et al.
While working on one of my own startup project, I started to intern at Multiple Natures under Steven Rudolph. Steve would constantly ensure that I was learning. He would take the time to explain to me the reasoning behind strategic decisions he took, he would recommend entrepreneurship books to me and once I read them, he would show me how he’s applying those books’ principles to his work. It was a very steep and incredulous learning curve that I am extremely thankful for.
While its difficult for startup employers to care as much about their employees learning as much as Steve does, I really appreciate people referring me to videos, tools, books or articles that help me do my job better. Jake, who I work with at eRated is also really amazing at this! It’s not rare for me to find links to marketing related webinars in my inbox.
- Giving constructive feedback: When I started working at eRated, I wasn’t very clear on the areas within business/marketing that I was good and not so good at.
So, when Dan Benjamin and Boaz Cohen would call me out on things I did well and not so well, I felt really good about it. I especially appreciated them pointing out things I could do better and areas I could improve on. Its easy to tell people what you like about them, but it’s not as easy to tell them about their faults. When Boaz mentioned that I could be more structured and organised in the way I work, I was really glad that he pointed it out, because there’s no way I would have ever realised that without someone explicitly telling me.
Knowing what I need to get better at gives me purpose, and there’s nothing more I appreciate than people helping me do this.
- Inclusiveness and equality: Within my first hour working with Brian O’Dwyer at Congna Learn, I found myself in a meeting with some of his most important customers. Later that week, he took me to a meeting with one of his mentors. I didn’t feel like an intern. He made me feel like a co-founder, and that motivated me to work harder regardless of equity and pay. My main role was to work on one of the five projects his company was doing, but in my meetings with him, he would tell me about what’s going on with all the other 4 projects.
Sometimes, I would see areas where I could potentially help or make an introduction, and I would offer to. So ultimately, I ended up doing much more than just that one project than I would have been able to if Brian hadn’t been so inclusive and open about all the other stuff that was going on.
Yoav, at eRated does this extremely well too, which is why I’ve had the chance to work with him briefly at eRated even though my main role has nothing to do with his!
- Flexibility: Brian wasn’t particular about what time I worked at and the way I chose to do it as long as I got work done. This was extremely valuable to me as someone who likes to work on her own startup projects on the side. So if I had some inevitable work for my own startup projects that needed me to leave early from work or arrive later, I would be able to do that and make up for my internship work at night or on weekends. Having this flexibility made me feel more trusted and not like a corporate employee who had to work at fixed timings.
- Being very responsive to feedback: No employer is perfect, but they can come quite close if they try. So when startup founders are active in seeking feedback about ways they can improve the work culture for their employees and ensure that they do their best in implementing their feedback, it makes working for them even better.
Boaz, Dan and Yoav are especially good at this. They don’t just ask for feedback, but they also notice inefficiencies and make it a point to fix them. Seeing them taking work culture so seriously and persistently is very comforting, since I know that they’ll always make sure that their company is a good place to work at.
- Being available: My favourite startup founders are the ones who’re consistently available to listen to new ideas, answer questions or even just go to lunch together and chat about non work stuff. Dan at eRated does this especially well, as does Steve at Multiple Natures. I feel like I can go up to them at any point to suggest new ideas or ask for help-personal or professional.
- Keeping in touch even afterwards: I’m still in touch with Brian and Steve. We exchange emails quite often, and I think I talk to them more often than I do with some of my old friends. They keep me updated about what’s going on, and sometimes we make introductions for each other whenever we can. I get attached to my work, so I love staying involved even after I leave and helping them advance their business in whatever way I can. I think I actually see Steve more than some of my family members! In fact, our most recent conversation was about collaborating on one of the projects he’s doing and the one I’ve been working on since we both are into the education space.
Working at a startup is so much more than just a pay check or a few more bullet points on your resume. The way startup employers treat their employees makes a huge difference, just like all these startup employers did for me. If you’re considering working at a startup, take the startup founders into consideration more than the specific role or industry. In my experience, that has mattered more than anything else. If you’re a startup founder yourself, take the time to consider work culture. No one likes to work for someone whose solely focussed on product, growth and revenue. But if you’ve bothered to read this article to the very end, you probably know that already!