What I have learned at a startup
Leaving the agency world and moving to a startup has taught me several things that have made me a better leader and a more impactful business person. Here are my top 5 lessons:
Advertising is a business where we talk. Tech is where we make. Learn to appreciate “making”
Hire makers. Learn the difference between those that can do vs those that can talk. Learn the language of code. Learn about the pipes of programmatic. Learn about the granular details that your service/software/company delivers on. Anybody can take a byte and sound smart but you have way more credibility if you truly understand how the solution works from the inside out. I will never be an engineer or developer but after learning the language of code, I now spend way more time asking about how something works. I makes me a better leader.
Learn to collaborate and be resilient
Agencies talk a lot about collaboration. But in my observation, very few do it well. In technology, you collaborate to make the product better. Iteration is a core foundation of the tech industry. We break things down and build them back up. We want to find the holes ourselves vs our clients discovering them.
Most people resist negative feedback…. here we embrace it. Then we celebrate when our collaboration makes the product better. This is not about working with quarterbacks…it is about working with high impact skilled team members all on the same page. Resilience comes next. Once you have a solution forge hard…it is an uphill battle and most people give up too easily.
Move faster (its uncomfortable but do it)
Speed of transformation is almost a cliché. On the agency side, it takes a long time to change legacy.
“As fast as you think you’re moving, odds are someone out there is moving faster. Be thoughtful and strategic, but at the same time, be bold and move fast. The need to adapt is constantly imminent—be fearless, try new things, and course-correct along the way.”
Ask why and why not every day in every meeting. Be a respectful agent of change. Refuse to accept conventional wisdom, think big and be supremely uncomfortable with the status quo.
“When no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition,” Google’s Larry Page. “Have confidence, fail often, [and] have a healthy disregard for the impossible.”
The pursuit of excellence is a never-ending one. Think BIG. Really Big. You will always give more, sell more, do more if you think Big vs the opposite. And on failures – write them down. Learn from them. Share them out. It makes you human, but also shows that you can learn.