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10 Important Lessons from Working in a Start-Up

10 Important Lessons from Working in a Start-Up

Start-ups often employ a very small amount of helping hands to speed up the growing process of the business. This leads to a significant accumulation of tasks and responsibilities on each employee’s desk, opening up their way of thinking if they wish to provide valuable input to the company.

Working at a start-up was a very rewarding and challenging experience that I would recommend to anyone who wishes to feel a great sense of importance and accountability. After working for about a year at an emerging creative agency, the skills that I have obtained can help me succeed in any industry and in any position. Looking back to the long and often stressful days, there are ten startup lessons learned that will leak into future careers and personal challenges.

1. Never Stop Learning

Never Stop Learning

    With new technologies and software continuously entering the market, start-ups expect you to constantly update your current skills and industry knowledge, and find new ways of simplifying work processes without digging too much into budget. Never believe that you know enough or that you know all that there is to know about an industry. This type of thinking will only place you behind the rest of your co-workers. In order to succeed in your position, buying paperbacks, signing up to online courses, even taking an on-campus course will keep you up to date and ready to provide your employer useful advice and information.

    You don’t have to stick to only educational material to stay ahead of the game; read fiction, learn a new language or program – you never know when this knowledge can be useful or can make a great impression on a client or employer. Stay informed and learn from history to make the right decision in the present.

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    2. Learn to Adapt to Any Working Environment 

      With all this emphasis on online networking it is not surprising that there is a high emergence of in-person networking events and conferences. Past positions that chained their workers to desks are slowly fading away as each employee is now required to engage in more networking events on and off-line. As a Digital Marketing Manager at my past position, I was pushed to attend various events where potential clients and partners lingered and meet with clients face-to-face. My work environment definitely did not keep me at my desk. After consulting various other individuals who work in the marketing field, they told me the same thing – the idea of the work station is changing and those who cannot adjust their work habits or cannot multi-task are becoming overwhelmed and are sometimes even seen as a burden. If you can adapt to any atmosphere, be it a casual environment or corporate, you have a better chance of succeeding in your career.

      3. Take Risks

      Take Risks

        Whether you wish to switch your career or start a business of your own, taking a risk is what gets your gears moving forward. Working for a start-up taught me to take risks even if there is a high chance of failing. These risks help you grow as a person and to truly appreciate the stability that you have in other aspects of your life. A risk helps you try various paths that could get you from point A to point B. After trial and error, you will find the path that is best suitable for your goals and budget. Without taking a risk, you are forced to settle with an unoriginal strategy that so many other people have chosen to follow. Don’t follow the footsteps of the herd; take a risk even if it means isolating yourself from the pack.

        4. Open Your Mind to New Ideas No Matter How Silly

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        Open your Mind

          Originality will always help you get your foot through the door so say good-bye to old ways of thinking and doing business, try new things, research new methods and be welcoming to the unknown. We usually ignore any bizarre or stupid thoughts that enter our minds, but these thoughts are usually the keys to a unique business strategy or can help solve the most basic problem. We often tend to overlook what’s in front of our eyes so open your mind and acknowledge and appreciate new ideas. We all have different ways of looking at things so nobody has the right to put down your insight just because it does not sync with theirs. After working in a small team environment, I learned to appreciate uniqueness as it helped us stand out from our competitors and branded our company image.  Sometimes, if an idea is very silly, it is perfect to capture audience attention.

          5. Find Opportunity in Negativity

            Sometimes life hands us lemons and we start to feel hopeless. Have you ever noticed how the worst situations always lead to better outcomes if examined from an outside perspective? Look at your issues as criticisms to your strategies. If you have many problems with clients or team members than you are doing something wrong. Take this time to re-asses your situation and to find a solution. You never know, these negative situations could be an opportunity for you to bring in more business.

            As an example, the start-up company that I worked for introduced social marketing services to their past clients and noticed that their clients were looking for every viable excuse not to subscribe. I was in charge of trying to find out the cause of this issue and after some calling and surveys I found out that these agents feared social marketing because they had no idea what it was and did not trust us to perform the services because they thought it was a scam. After consulting the chairman, we decided to introduce webinars, for a small fee a marketing specialist would go through the basics of social marketing and would teach these clients to engage with their online audience. In the end, the clients realized that social marketing is nothing to be afraid of and after trying it out for themselves asked us to take over as they simply did not have the time to do it themselves. These webinars eliminated client fear, helped us get more clients signed up for additional services, and gave us a small profit as well. Look at every negative situation as an opportunity to perfect current practises.

            6. Don’t Take Criticism Personally

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            Don't Take Criticism Personally

              Everybody has a role to play in a business infrastructure and receiving criticism for work or behaviour can discourage us and make us feel unworthy. Don’t let this get you down, instead, focus on the situation from an outside perspective. It is not your personality or your interests that are being judged but your final product. Be honest with yourself, if you know that you did not put in enough effort into a project, then why are you upset when the employer had made a subtle hint on the quality of your work? Since the company grows based on the accumulative efforts of the team, your contribution is bound to be criticized. Step back and see what you have done from the employer’s perspective, if there is truth to what they are telling you, just disconnect your feelings from the equation and focus on improving the work at hand. By taking negative comments to heart, you are only placing more weight on your shoulders. This could seep into your personal life and will most definitely ruin your day. No one wants that, so step back, re-analyze, and fix the situation. Knowing that everyone receives negative feedback once in a while helps to move on and to focus on other things.

              7. What Works for Others May Not Work for You

              What Works for Others May Not Work for You

                Simply copying your competitors’ business model is not going to place you on top of the ladder. Even taking ideas from a business from an unrelated industry may not advance your business but do more damage. If you think that replicating a product idea from a Fortune500 company will get you on that list, think again. People want originality and uniqueness even if your product or service is similar to those offered at the place down the street. Consumers look for a company personality when deciding on which product to buy and if you cannot provide them that, you simply won’t succeed. This ‘personality’ is what consumers will pay more for even if your friendly neighbour offers the same service but for a significantly cheaper price. So in regard to marketing and structuring your business and personal brand, it is great to see what others are doing to get their named out there, but look for new ways to create a voice and to be different.

                8. Speak Your Mind

                Voice Your Opinions

                  No matter your position within a company, find ways to speak your mind. We all have different experience and educational preparation, you opinion might just provide your employers or partners a different viewpoint on a topic that wasn’t seen before. Additionally, if you see something inappropriate at work, speak up as this unsuitable behaviour may not just be impacting you but your peers as well. By taking responsibility, you are being an active participant of the company and helping the way it grows and succeeds. Even if you are down the chain of command, your opinion matters so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.  

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                  9. Get Organized

                  Get Organized

                    The best way to plan your day is to make a to-do list each morning and to cross off tasks as you go along. Of course, some people flourish when they have papers covering their entire work station without any real sense of organization, but for the most of us, we need structure to our day and to our priorities. Making lists throughout the day will help you complete more tasks and will remind you of all the small details that we tend to forget. Organization is not limited to your desk, when is the last time you looked at your computer’s desktop? Going through old files on your computer and phone cuts the amount of time that you spend searching for documents and once it is organized, it will be much easier for you to maintain the cleanliness. If you wish to land any managerial role in a company, get organized and it will help with deadlines, meetings, and projects where teamwork is involved.

                    10. Be Active Outside of Work

                    Be Active Outside of Work

                      You will be stressed, you will feel lost, and you will underestimate yourself. The amount of tasks and projects will accumulate, often forcing you to stay overtime while drowning yourself in coffee. Anxiety and pressure is part of working at a start-up, heck it is part of any job so it is very easy to burn-out. To avoid digging yourself a grave at your work station, make sure you are not skipping out on your hobbies and special events. Having a balanced work/personal life is crucial if you wish to stay sane and still be an active team player. Our best ideas come when we disconnect ourselves from the issue, so go for a run, read a book, meet with friends! After all, your boss will not expect you to be a robot so schedule in your personal time and make every minute count. When you will reflect on your life, you will want to remember adventure, happiness, and family gatherings rather than regret all of the time that you spent in front of a monitor.

                      Working at a start-up will introduce you to many new ways of thinking and lessons that could be helpful in your future career.

                      Featured photo credit: Le Temple du Chemisier via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                      How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

                      How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

                      We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

                      So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

                      While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

                      Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

                      What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

                      How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

                      But what does being productive actually entail?

                      Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

                      Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

                      It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

                      Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

                      9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

                      1. Avoid Multitasking

                      Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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                      Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

                      If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

                      2. Turn off Notifications

                      According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

                      Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

                      The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

                      Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

                      3. Manage Interruptions

                      There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

                      Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

                      If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

                      By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

                      4. Eat the Frog

                      Mark Twain once famously said that:

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                      “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

                      What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

                      We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

                      Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

                      5. Cut Down on Meetings

                      Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

                      You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

                      The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

                      But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

                      If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

                      6. Utilize Tools

                      Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

                      If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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                      And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

                      Some examples of tools that could be used:

                      Communication
                      • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
                      • Samepage for video conference software.
                      • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
                      Task Management
                      • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
                      • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
                      • Wekan for an open source option.
                      Database Management
                      Time Tracking
                      • Clockify for a free tracker.
                      • TMetric for workspace integrations.
                      • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

                      You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

                      7. Declutter and Organize

                      Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

                      Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

                      Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

                      Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

                      8. Take Breaks

                      Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

                      As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

                      Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

                      Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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                      9. Drink Water

                      Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

                      Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

                      Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

                      A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

                      If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

                      You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

                      The Bottom Line

                      The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

                      After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

                      In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

                      A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

                      Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

                      More About Boosting Productivity

                      Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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