Whether you run a small businesses or a digital marketing agency, there are ways to learn from startups and create better work environments and employee relationships. Here are some of the things you should and shouldn’t do to startup-ify your company.


Allow employees to grow

At startups, employees often grow because they are forced to wear multiple hats.

While employees at larger organizations may not have to wear multiple hats, it’s important for companies to ensure that employees have opportunities to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills so that they can find new ways to contribute and avoid boredom and stagnation.

Encourage experimentation

Experimentation is a prerequisite for innovation, so encouraging employees to experiment and giving them the time, tools and support they need to do so is one of the best ways to ensure your company doesn’t fall behind the competition.

Get rid of bureaucracy

Startups are known for being places where decision are often made quickly without forcing employees to jump through hoops.

Even though a lot of non-startups need greater controls, identifying unnecessary red tape and cutting it out is a worthwhile exercise.

Try to let all employees get close to the product or service

Making sure all employees have the opportunity to get close to a company’s product or service, even for a short time, can really help employees better understand how they can be more effective in their jobs.

For example, at some startups, all employees are required to serve in a customer service role at least once.

Think about long-term incentives

Most startups fail, but one of the reasons many continue join them is that they see great potential for long-term rewards.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter minted thousands of millionaires and while not everyone is motivated by money, the lesson startups offer is that it’s important to think about how employees can be motivated by more than the next paycheck. 


Demand crazy hours

At many startups, employees are expected to work long hours. There’s too much to do, and it can’t get done fast enough.

Some startups get away with this harsh environment, at least for a little while, but chances are your company won’t.

Skimp on pay

Historically, startups have been synonymous with lower than market pay. The proposition: when the company goes public or gets acquired, stock options will make everyone rich.

Such a dynamic might work in the largest of startup hubs, but for most companies, poor salaries and promises of future rewards are bad for recruiting and retention.

Eliminate management

Getting rid of bureaucracy is good but be careful about going too far in the other direction and doing away with all management.

This might work when there are only a handful of employees but lack of management can be a disaster in larger organizations.

Expect an unreasonable level of dedication

Startups often depend on early employees being insanely dedicated and focusing all of their energies towards the company’s success.

While established companies should want dedicated employees, this usually has to be earned over time and most employers can’t expect the type of fanatical “you either believe or don’t believe” dedication sometimes seen in the startup world.

Ignore the rules

A number of high profile startups are facing lawsuits alleging everything from sexual harassment to employee miscategorization.

Moving fast and breaking the rules might be an acceptable risk for young companies that are willing to grow at all costs but the risks of being careless can be much greater for established businesses.

Image courtesy of the Unfinished Business iStock library.