It’s bang on trend right now to work in a startup. It may even be more on trend than being a hipster or drinking out of a jam jar. It’s so on trend that even the big corporates are claiming to be startups. Westpac recently announced that it is a ‘200 year old startup’.
So what makes a startup a startup and not an established business? And why are so many businesses drinking the startup koolaid right now?
The term ‘startup’ is not new. It’s rose to popularity during the 1990’s dot-com bubble. Being a startup doesn’t have to do with the size of your business, how long you’ve been in operation or your revenue, it has much more to do with your attitude, culture and ways of working.
Here are four essential startup traits:
1. Take risks
If you’re not prepared to take risks, then the startup world is not for you. Taking risks is necessary for growth. By risk taking, we don’t mean jumping in with both feet to everything without thinking it through. We’re talking about calculated risk. The difference between a startup and an established business is that the risk is calculated at a fast pace and decisions are made quickly in order to grow. There’s no success without risk, and failure for that matter.
2. Be prepared to fail
Some startups talk about being ‘comfortable with failure’ but we think this is a bit of an oxymoron, as failure is inevitably uncomfortable. Our advice is to be prepared for failure but don’t get comfortable with it as you may just get stuck in a cycle of it. Fail, learn quickly and bounce back. Resilience is essential in the startup world.
3. Iterate quickly
With every failure comes a learning…or ten! And it’s what you do with the learnings and how fast you act on them that counts. The advantage that comes with startup life is that you can iterate quickly because there’s no bureaucracy in the way. Move quickly into the next iteration of your product, service and business strategy. Keep on iterating, moving and growing.
4. You’re really listening to your customers
You’re still in startup mode if you’re actively engaging your customers to genuinely listen to their feedback. We’re not just talking about asking them to rate you for your Net Promoter Score, in fact it’s not about that at all. Startups listen to customers to learn and use their feedback to iterate and grow. Established businesses often lose sight of the importance of their customer. As a startup, it’s not an option.
A startup business thrives on taking qualified risk to grow quickly and accepts that failure is a part of learning. In startup life, you need to be comfortable with the unknown, try new things, iterate quickly and constantly work on a cycle of feedback from customers.
Originally published October 4 2016 , updated April 27 2017