Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 20: startups and the drive to create new paths forward 5

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, startups by Timothy Platt on August 29, 2013

This is my twentieth 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 311-329 for Parts 1-19.) And this is also my fifth installment to this series where I have focused on best practices in a startup or early stage business context (see Parts 16-19.)

I began my startups and early stage businesses portion of this series from the employee perspective with Part 16 and Part 17, and then proceeded to discuss working in this type of business context from a founding owner’s perspective with Part 18 and Part 19. And as a key element to the second half of that discussion, I wrote about working as a leader and owner of a new business venture, as working as a part of a collaborative effort. And I wrote this in terms of working as if an employee and a fellow employee – even if as the owning and most senior employee.

I ended Part 19 by noting that I would turn in this installment to consider corporate cultures, and both when building one and when working with others within the framework of one, and where everyone in those conversations brings their own work histories and their own corporate culture wishes and expectations to the table with them.

I have written about corporate cultures quite a few times in this blog, often discussing them as systems of shared understandings and perspectives that are for the most part simply taken for granted – at least until they are violated, at which point the violator is viewed as that much less of a team player. There are other ways of viewing these shared frameworks of understanding but that is a good starting point for this discussion. A business founder: an entrepreneur who takes on the challenge of building their own business and realizing their own business vision, starts out with their own work and life experience as a foundation to build from. And much of what they think and do in this effort is going to be shaped by, or at least very strongly influenced by their own work experience, and both positive and negative.

When I sit down and really talk with them, at least in my experience every founder I have ever worked with has started out at least in part with a desire to do things better, for at least some aspect of a corporate culture, or of a set of operational and strategic practices that they have found avoidably and harmfully limiting. I have certainly met with and worked with founders who have what they see as break-away ideas that could be turned into sources of new and emergent value and competitive business strength. But they also see their experience working for others as having been flawed and limiting, where their ideas would be taken from them, crushed of any real value by systems that could not develop them properly, or both.

• When you build a new business, approach this endeavor for its positive potential and as a proactive exercise in building for a future, and not as a reactive response to your workplace past, good or bad.

This is important because your basic attitude and approach here will both shape your operational and strategic vision and approach, and the corporate culture vision that you bring to the table as your heavily weighed contribution to any business building effort.

And with that, I come to consider the expectations, positive and negative that others bring with them when they come to work with and for you. And I repeat an adage that I cited earlier in this series that you cannot lead if you cannot bring others to follow you. On an interpersonal level and on a workplace experience level, this means listening to the people who would join you as your team, and it means working with them to find and to build business approaches and a corporate culture that everyone can succeed at, while still being true to your overarching business goals and your mission and vision.

And this brings me to the last set of issues that I said I would discuss here, where I cited some basic organizational models with top-down and authoritarian business models and cultures, and more bottom-up democratic and laissez-faire approaches.

• As a founder and owner, you really need to understand what you yourself assume and your own background, and how this does and will impact upon others
• And on their willingness to work with you,
• Their ability to do so and
• The impact you would have in shaping their work performance potentials while at your business.

At the end of Part 19 I briefly sketched out two mismatch scenarios:

• One where a founder takes too authoritarian and top-down an approach for really effectively working with the people they need who have the necessary hands-on skills,
• And the other taking too laissez-faire an approach where that leaves their team floundering for lack of sufficient organizing guidance.

Know yourself and make a point of learning who non-owner founder partners, your employees and others are for their work backgrounds and expectations. And remember that simple assumptions can be misleading.

• A potential new hire for your startup or early stage company who comes from an authoritarian, top-down hierarchical system might be limited in both experience and skill at making strategic or even tactical business decisions, from always turning to others to do that for them. And they might be most comfortable working in that type of business environment.
• Or if they come from an authoritarian and top down system, they might be breaking away from that to work with a startup because they have felt thwarted in not being allowed to make decisions and even when as the person on-site, they know that they have been in the best position to make the right ones.
• A potential new hire for your startup or early stage company who comes from an openly democratic or laissez-faire system might expect and prefer to be in on most if not all decisions that would directly affect them.
• Or they might be looking for a more organized and orderly system from watching the failures and missed opportunities pile up around them in a previous job, because effective decisions could not seem to be reachable in any realistic timeframe for all of the talk and all of the delays. Even good decisions if over-delayed can become bad and even very bad ones. And that experience can and does take its toll and certainly when consistently repeated.

Know yourself and what you have found positive and negative that you would bring to the table as you plan and build out a new business venture. Know what you would replicate and what you would refute and replace and why. And know the positives that the people you would work with, bring to this table, and what they would like to see replaced from their prior experience as they move forward in their careers too. And work with them, taking the lead but in a way that others will follow in finding and developing that happy medium, that might not perfectly meet anyone’s idealized goals and certainly not every time, but that everyone can successfully work with.

I am going to turn away from startups and early stage businesses in my next series installment to at least begin discussing senior and executive management and leadership. In anticipation of that, I cite as relevant reference material, my series: Transitioning into Senior Management, at the first directly page to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 158-178 for Parts 1-21. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at the second page to that Guide directory and at my first Guide directory page. You can also find this and related postings at Startups and Early Stage Businesses.

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