Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 19: startups and the drive to create new paths forward 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, startups by Timothy Platt on August 24, 2013

This is my nineteenth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-328 for Parts 1-18.) And this is also my fourth installment to this series where I have focused on employee best practices in a startup or early stage business context (see Part 16, Part 17 and also Part 18.)

I focused in Parts 16 and 17 on working at a newly forming business venture as a non-owner employee, and then began to discuss startups from the founder and owner perspective in Part 18. My goal there was to begin a discussion of at least some of the issues that arise when working with others as a business owner. And I continue that here, where I turn to consider building an organization from step one and an idea, into an ongoing collaborative effort.

• First of all, it is important to remember that every successful business is a collaborative effort – always. That applies to stand alone businesses where one person does everything as an independent worker, as much as it does to businesses with multiple employees and teams of employees, and a complex table of organization.
• This is because even that stand alone business person with a one person business practice works with clients and customers. And they often work collaboratively with other businesses and business people in sharing referrals and in securing and offering collaborative services. In a formal and more organized business-to-business sense, this becomes supply chain participation, but whether loose and informal or highly structured and contractually defined this is all about working in a larger community and as a participant in larger systems.

And here, my focus is on building what would become that multiple employee business. I ended Part 18 by noting that I would write here about:

• Working with others and with the right others and at the right organizational levels while doing this, and as the business begins to come together and grow.
• That is all about finding the right people with the right skills and experience for your business at the stage that it is at, and bringing them to want to join and contribute to the effort of realizing your business vision.

When you first start building a business, operational processes and needs are stripped down and simple, with few if any elaborated details required except perhaps as needed to start building for a unique defining capability – a feature of this business-to-be that would offer it a unique source of value for its marketplace and a competitive position in it. As a business forms and begins to grow, detail becomes more important and operational processes and systems begin to flesh out.

So at first all of the operational and hands-on work for any given functional area, are likely to be owned by one person as a matter of their taking overall responsibility for it – as that functional area arises to a level of significance and complexity where it is necessary to define it as a full job description and as the headcount has to go up by that one more.

• The scope of activity that anyone actively involved in this venture faces is certain to change, calling for a combination of overall planning and strategic, and hands-on detail work. Finding the right people for all of this, and to meet the changing requirements of this new business with its rapidly emerging challenges and opportunities can be one of the biggest challenges that a founder and owner can face.
• They need to find self-starters who are willing to step in and do what is needed to get their job done and who are likely to have a relatively independent quality to them,
• But at the same time they need to find people who can work in a team framework, and who are willing to subordinate their work contribution to fit into a larger context.
• And everyone involved in this, founders and owners, and people who work for them alike have to be comfortable working in the face of uncertainty and change.

My own experience in this at least, would suggest that it can be difficult finding individual participants with both the right combination of skills and experience who also hold sufficient enthusiasm for and willingness to work at essentially all levels of tasks, from rote and more highly technical hands-on through to higher level operational and strategic planning. The people who have current hands-on skills needed to carry through on the former of those requirements, in many cases lack the seasoning and experience required for the later. And more seasoned managers who can take on the early stage, more C level responsibilities called for often lack the most up to date hands-on skills – and even if they have them that is probably not what they would prefer to do.

• Learning curves are very important here, and both for developing and refining basic skills at whatever level there may be deficiencies, and in recognizing and responding to the unexpected –and at times with unconventional and even disruptively original solutions.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least begin adding in the issues of developing a corporate culture, and addressing corporate culture expectations that members of a developing team bring to the table from their prior work experience. I am also going to discuss some of the issues that arise when people come together to work and in the new territory of a still forming business venture, but from different types of organizational systems. Here I refer to top-down and authoritarian business models and cultures, and more bottom-up democratic and laissez-faire approaches to cite three possibilities and three very distinctive bases for workplace expectations.

To briefly take that out of the abstract, consider a situation with a founder and owner comes from a more authoritarian, top-down system of management and oversight and with a goal of developing a successful cutting-edge information technology-oriented business. And many of the key skills and experience sets that they would need to bring into their newly forming team can really only be found in younger employees who by and large come from more bottom-up managed businesses, where everyone has a significant say in making business decisions and over a very wide range of areas of decision making. At least this is the primary source of people with the skills and experience needed who would be willing to join into a newly forming business and who would consider taking the types of compensation packages and future rewards promises that a new business founder could offer when still pre-revenue or at least pre-break-even.

And to balance that, consider a bookend matching example of a business founder who comes from a more bottom-up, laissez-faire business and who starts out at least, unaware of the scope or importance of the set of issues that they actively need to take the lead on and make the real binding decisions for. I am going to be writing in my next series installment about finding a happy medium in all of this, and about what it means for a corporate culture and a basic business approach to be good. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. You can also find this and related postings at Startups and Early Stage Businesses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: