Things to learn from startups

In this blog let’s talk facts – what most corporate businesses can learn from Startups. In this quite short life of ours, we have been part of both – corporate and startup world, so we can weight both sides and tell what all the businesses and especially huge corporations can learn from startups.

Without further ado, let’s dive into it.

Corporations should learn how:

To be more efficient

“In larger corporations, there are a lot of inefficiencies that make simple tasks and goals hard to accomplish. Typical things like email — usually used to help you accomplish a goal — are often times turned into endless threads of “who is going to finish this project” rather than simply getting it done.”

Stacey Ferreira, MySocialCloud

Propagate quality recruitment

We have been talking about how you choose the right team in our blog and most of the startups do work hard on finding that perfect match. And corporations should learn the importance of quality recruitment. And not solely recruitment but also keeping your staff happy. Ask any employee at a successful startup what their favourite part of the job is, and they will tell you it’s the people they work with

Due to the startup size, every change in the team will be felt, no matter good or bad.

We have heard some humans say that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses and co-workers. That is partially true, but you can’t fix a crappy company culture and job with awesome people. Not even sure how good of a magician you should be to do that. A crappy company and a job will stay crappy and improving would require more steps.

Anyhow, great startups understand the importance of a passionate team with a to-do attitude who actually want to work. And as a result, startups hire people who make the whole team better. 

A part of focusing on quantity over quality of the employers, corporations have a tendency to base their hiring decision on expertise. That’s the great mistake of corporations.

And what startup businesses do? They hire the best sport, not the best expert. In other words, when looking for the best teammates, they don’t get too hung up on finding the person with the most expertise. 
Sometimes it is better to hire doer kids. Not true kids, of course, just young talent who looks like kids in the eyes of the corporate man. Someone with general knowledge and having them figure stuff out (while getting the proper support and mentoring, of course). It can be more effective than an expert with an outdated “expertise” or just a stubborn expert who supposedly knows “the right way” and not willing to learn new things. We are not saying that being or hiring an expert is a bad thing. Just in some cases it is better for a person who is willing to adapt and learn new stuff grow with a startup organically.

Develop a more efficient decision-making process

“Startup culture is known for its energy and fast productivity. Successful startups generally accomplish this by hiring strong leaders and involving fewer people in decision-making processes. One lesson large companies can learn from startups is how to limit bureaucracy, red tape and excessive approvers. This would empower larger companies to create smaller teams that make faster decisions.”

Ben Rubenstein, Yodle

The comment for this can be short and sweet. Yes, to be a bulletproof company is an admirable thing. But in these cases having a thick, multi-layered glass can lead your company to rot from the inside. 

Let’s imagine you want to buy a pair of shoes. But in order to do that, you have to ask your sibling for the permission, your sibling has to ask your mum, your mum your grandma and so on. You would stop buying shoes unless you would really need them.

Really meaning holes in the soles of your shoes. That’s how most of the people feel in the corporate environment – stuck. Most of the employees don’t even have the privilege of freedom of speech. Maybe it is a bit too harsh. But in some companies it seems that your only duty is to serve your time.

This naturally leads to the second part.

Encourage collaboration and learning

“Big companies enforce controls for every dollar invested and every hour spent; they need to be quantified, analyzed and optimized. The problem is that it kills the ability for ideas to grow and, more importantly, for assumptions to be questioned. Startups by nature have to validate their ideas, so they value experimentation and exploration.”

Mike Cuesta, CareCloud
Difference in-between startup and corporation
(Image source:

Cut your staff a bit of slack and encourage collaboration!

Do you know where the secret of a more organic and creative work culture lies?

Simple, in collaboration-based work practices that highlight proactivity and continuous learning. 

We are going to talk about company culture but first, let’s explore the aspect of education within the company.

In startups, a continuous learning culture is very strong. First, it is in the nature of any startup. People need to constantly learn and research new things in order to stay up to date and improve the business. Second, startup businesses encourage dynamic learning experience to the employees for the same reason. If you want to be the best in your niche, you have to stay on top of things.

Most corporations do not think that daily learning is needed or applicable. Or at least most of the corporate businesses think so. You train your employee once at the beginning and he or she is good til the end of the time. Strange thinking process when you think about it. Some large companies have employed this mentality and have successfully built a corporate culture that supports learning. 

One of the best examples is PwC – It has introduced a program of lifelong learning that encourages continuous improvement among the staff which increases productivity and economic growth.

This company offers various types of training for their employees, such as traditional learning, e-learning, and mobile learning. As well as employees can search for a topic and select the type of training they want, such as using an app, watching a video, reading an article, etc.

We think it would be healthy for both employees and big businesses to adapt to this kind of mentality and give their employees to grow.

Find more time for your customers

“When my first software company got bought, I entered into a different world. As CEO of a startup, I would spend at least half of my day (often more) with prospective clients and current clients. As an exec at a large company, barely any. Regardless of size, a business is a breathing organism fed by customers. Step outside the ivory tower, and spend time getting to truly know your lifeblood.”

Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

Understand your perfect customer

We don’t get it how most of the big businesses still keep shooting blindly and hoping to hook people on their product. It is more efficient and useful to narrow down your audience. As an example, you should not post an ad in a magazine of a tiny village in order for some old lady to buy a website who is knitting and selling socks to her neighbours. Yes, she is running a tiny “business” but we don’t think that she is ready to scale and expand to the virtual waters. That would be simply silly. And yes, she wouldn’t even consider buying it or anyone else in that village. 

This example is silly too but it shows the point. 

Outdated, non-targeted forms of advertising are a waste of time and money. More companies should be concentrating on knowing their potential customer instead of throwing their money into billboards and pointless cold-calling.

Engage with your audience

We can feel the sceptical looks coming through the computer screen. How on earth a busy CEO could find time for customers? Rethink your priorities. 

Startup companies (not all but most) spend time not only to analyze their potential clients, their needs and wants but also they actually communicate with their customers. They are thriving to know what makes their customer tick. 

Why? Because startup, to begin with, has been born from passion. People who have created it are driven by the idea and they want to improve it to its maximum. That’s why they want to get all the feedback that it is within their reach. And it is a path of success.

We know that in some cases is not possible to meet your customer face-to-face but you can engage in the dialogue on social media, respond to their reviews and comments. Just to get an idea if you are aiming at the correct market and if your product or service is making them happy.

Develop a company culture that actually works

“No matter how big or how “techy” a company is, the employees there still need motivation and still need to treat work as fun. Company culture is as essential in a large corporation as it is in a four-person startup because no matter what, people need to push day in and day out to make a change in the world and get their product into the hands of consumers.”

Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper

Being agile and innovative should be important to every business, big or small. The most obvious obstacles standing in the way of growth and innovation are related to the company culture. 

Startups are usually very small so the company culture has a huge effect on each and every single one of the individuals. It is almost as sharing a flat with people. You can’t live with any random stranger from the street. You need someone you can trust, feel comfortable with and find a way how to improve the quality of life.

Innovation in large companies requires constant change and can be hard to carry it out if the underlying culture can’t be penetrated by creativity and new ideas.

Some big businesses decide to implement a mentality that they don’t need any ideas that are coming from the outside of the company. Or any ideas in general. Like a kid who is sure that he is not going to like vegetables even if he has never tried it. 

This phenomenon is known as the ‘Not Invented Here‘ effect and originates from the impulse to protect the existing business from any external ideas and any testing. What happens then? Quite straightforward,  if you reject new, creative or any ideas (whether they’re coming from the inside or outside the company), knowledge is being underutilized, potential strategies are not tested out and your business might have to face negative consequences.

Startups approach ideas from a different angle and that makes them more agile. They create a more organic company culture that keeps on growing, hire people who share the same values and don’t limit themselves with a rigid structure.

To develop a more flexible mindset

“Startups generally share a collaborative atmosphere, while in big companies you can encounter “bottlenecks” in which the workflow, productivity and rate of output are limited because of the need for constant approvals. Big companies need to revisit, update and eliminate processes that inhibit employees from getting more done.”

-Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

You will see that what we about to say is very closely related to the company culture and the education of your employees. But having a balanced and innovative company culture doesn’t necessarily lead to having employees who have a growth mindset. 

A growth mindset is a mental model that drives motivation and achievement. It simply relies on motivation and the belief that people can improve their skills by working harder or in a smarter manner. 

When it comes to innovation, having a growth mindset can be a boost of creativity and motivation, and an important value for a startup or any business to grow and blossom. If you are a startup, you are most likely to be focusing on rapid growth and scaling. Startups have to rely on their team which has to be agile and be able to take action in their hands. 

If you want to be a successful business you should acknowledge their employees more:

Give your employees some credit

When working in a startup, your good and hard work will get noticed. And, of course, at the same time, your boss is going to notice if you are slacking off or you’ve done something wrong. 

In most of the corporations your “job well done” won’t catch any attention of your boss so you can’t expect recognition for all the hard work you’ve put in. So you might instead be scrolling on your phone as large companies do tolerate individual mistakes better. We are joking about the scrolling part, of course. 

Create opportunities for your staff

While working at a startup you have to wear many hats. Learn a lot of things, be in charge of an insane amount of tasks. In other words – develop a multi-dimensional skill set, which demands self-confidence and a lot of hard work.

Also, there is a greater chance to climb up the career ladder faster than in any other business. 

Opportunities in a corporate setting are less if any. The system is so rigid, there is barely any chance to get out of your office chair and actually prove that there would be more useful for you and the company if you would be in charge of a higher position.

Flexibility and constant growth of opportunities can be picked up from the startup culture. We are not saying that people who are working for big corporations are not working hard enough or that they do not have any chance of improvement or areas what to focus on. We are saying that corporations have a different focus – they are more interested in a steady increase in profit and market share not in rapid growth. Growth mindset is simply not viewed as a priority.

To put it more simply – in some cases, the change of a mindset from “this is how things have always been done” to “let’s get more things done” it is that missing piece that can create a motivating work environment.


Let’s sum up this blog with a quote:

“One motto at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley is to question the status quo. Too often companies continue down a previously agreed upon path even though it is no longer the best course of action. While you don’t want to be fickle, you should challenge past decisions if they no longer seem right. Startups excel at changing quickly, adapting to new situations and winning new markets.”

Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Test Prep

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