Start up work can involve starting a completely new business; or starting a new enterprise initiative within a larger established business.
Scope of Work
Launching and/or working in a start up is intense. It's more than a single job; people in start-ups usually wear a variety of hats. Day-to-day work can include sourcing capital and negotiating with potential clients and customers; bookkeeping; product development research and meetings; social media work; marketing; and more.
The first step is to identify a raw product/service; and develop it into something that can be sold. Often a new business starts with the founder developing a product or service.
In it's raw state:
- a product may be anything, grown, mined, collected, or manufactured
- a service may be doing anything the client feels they cannot do for themselves
The next step is to package, market and supply the product/service. The nature of work depends on what you are selling. It may involve packaging, storing, transporting and selling a product; or it could involve conceiving a service (anything from gardening or dog walking to consulting or writing); then finding and selling to clients, and ultimately delivering the service.
What You Need to Learn
- Entrepreneurship - principles of startups and driving business, motivation, business environments
- Financial Management - bookkeeping and accountancy, understanding incomings and outgoings
- Project Management - managing a project start to finish, design, including sourcing materials, design adaptations, through to a prototype product or service
- Product knowledge - overall understanding of the sector, product use, competitors, and related products
- Research Skills - identifying gaps and researching to find potential solutions, new ways of thinking
- Statistics - collecting and interpreting data, analysing data to help adjust products in development
- Marketing Foundations - understanding the driving forces in marketing, and how consumer interest helps in product design and development, using marketing data to inform development decisions
- Quality Control - ensuring products and services are high quality, making changes as necessary
- Business Operations - general awareness of how the business works, costings, supply chains and logistics of production
- Flexibility - moving with the enterprise, shifting between roles as required
- Organisational skills - delegating, keeping track of deadlines and projects, arranging appropriate meetings, keeping in touch with clients, following up when necessary
Starting a Career
Working in a start up provides opportunities for experience across a wide variety of areas. It's an excellent way to develop expertise in one area while keeping your hand in in a few others.
You need four things (all four) to start: Learning, Attitude, Networking, and Experience. A course can help with some of these but not all. Experience is always available if you are prepared to work for free. Attitude is up to you though. Even if you get everything else right; you risk failure with a bad attitude.
There are many ways to start your career in working in a start up. This can be everything from researching potential products and services and launching your own start up to finding work in a venture capital or investment firm.
If you're entering into a start up, you could:
Take on PA work. Personal assistants work hard, but see all the ins and outs of start up and investment culture, helping source research and data, arrange meetings, and more.
Volunteer at a non-profit organisation. Many of these need volunteer project coordinators and managers; some even have similar cultures to a start up. The low budgets in most non-profits will help you develop the jack-of-all trades skills needing in start ups.
Further your learning. Attend seminars, conferences, and tradeshows. Take online courses in areas such as bookkeeping and project management, and look for mentor programs. Don't be afraid to cold call looking for volunteer, internship, and work experience opportunities.
Progressing a Career
Start ups are rich with opportunities for career progression. To progress:
- Never stop learning and developing contacts within your industry
- Embrace as many opportunities as you can comfortably. Do not over commit though. It's better to do fewer things and do them well
- Never think long term success is only about the money.
Start ups depend on developing connections with industry and staying ahead of competitors. This means working with a start up long-term requires a strong network.
Opportunities for progression include:
- For the business owner - growing the business profit (sometimes size), improving sustainability, sell the business and start over.
- For anyone working for a Start Up - Opportunities can grow as the start up grows, for example:
- Management positions. Take on new projects -if interested in operations management, look for projects focusing on logistics; if you're interested in the financial side, look for projects on strategy and environment.
- Consultant/coach. Consider if you want to transition into a new start up, as a coach or consultant.