What I’ve Learned After One Month at a Startup

Just over a month ago I began working at Kapost, an industry-leading content marketing software company based in Boulder, Colorado – a well established and renowned hotspot for tech startups and entrepreneurship in general. I left a group of phenomenal coworkers and relatively comfortable marketing career path at a large data company behind for the lure of the startup.

I was given the chance to build something in months that it would have taken years to build (if at all) at my former company, and also given the opportunity to have a large hand in regularly creating content (blog posts, videos, eBooks, infographics, social campaigns) – something I love. I would get to work with a ridiculous amount of creative talent and people I already knew about and respected. The timing was right professionally and personally, so I jumped at it.

Challenge

I had worked with many small businesses before and even been self employed for a while in the past, so there were some parts of going from “big” to “small” I was prepped for, but this would be my first official experience at a genuine startup. Here are some lessons I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been there.

You Can’t Fear Change

Kapost is at the hyper-growth startup stage. I’ve been around 4 weeks, and already 10-12 new people have come on after me. I don’t know the exact number because hiring is happening so quickly in every department. That said, every day the company looks a little bit different – both in personnel and also physical layout as we shift people around trying to find the right fit. I’m already in my 3rd different seating arrangement. If you struggle to adapt to being in constant motion, startups are not for you. Each day we’re working on new processes in every area. In the time I’ve been there we have a new meeting scheduling system, new conference call process (and new phones), new coffee/tea area, new HR benefits, new positions that never existed before, a new orientation process that never existed before, countless new processes between teams, and a new physical layout.

Dwight Schrute False

That last one is where I really have had to remind myself of this lesson. When I started, Kapost was a very open office layout, which reflected the very open, everybody-works-together culture its founders cultivate. I felt very much a part of a team, of “we’re all in this together”, which was amplified by all company meetings for product updates or lunches where we could all sit together and see each other comfortably. It was a far cry from being shoved away in cubicles, forced to used IM and email to foster work relationships.

Then, a few days ago, some construction was done that ended up knocking down a wall to make more space, but in turn, grey cubicle walls were put up that sliced our main room in half, dividing marketing from sales and actually hiding marketing away from the rest of the office pretty much. I went from looking out onto a busy room full of energy to staring at the same bland, lifeless cubicle walls I thought I had left behind for good when I left the corporate world.

Cubicle Farm

This screams “soothing”, doesn’t it?

I HATE the new setup. Hate it. It really sucks life out of the room and makes a few of us on my side feel pretty claustrophobic and antsy. Just when I was enjoying how together I felt with our sales team a literal wall was put up between us. It really sucks. But here’s my point – aside from whining about it in this post, I’m not throwing much of a fit, because I know this too will change.

If we continue to grow as rapidly as we have been – and as rapidly as the company is planning to – we literally will not be able to fit everyone in the office space we’re in now. There will be another move, and maybe we’ll return to an open, lively, & energetic workspace. The point is, change happens at breakneck speed at a startup and if venting in a blog post like I just did isn’t enough to help you keep moving, you’ll struggle to catch up.

It’s For The Brave

With constant change comes constant uncertainty. Even though Kapost’s future looks very, very bright – it’s not set in stone. There are risks with any business, especially with businesses like this. Even success can bring uncertainty, as a potential acquisition could change the way everything works. I left behind a company that has a booming stock, solid benefits, office stability, a well defined culture, etc, and so on. It was a risk coming to Kapost – an educated risk, but still. Also, with so few people involved still, each and every person’s role is extremely vital. Everyone’s work is noticed and exposed, no one is just plugging along somewhere hiding in the shadows.

When you work for a startup, your work is very public-facing and open to scrutiny, especially so in the digital age. It’s a brave move to do something like that, and it’s a brave move for everyone in our company from our CEO down to our office manager to be a part of something like this. The brave tend to be the most adventurous, however, and as such get to go on the best adventures. I already feel invigorated by the great adventure Kapost is on, and I’m so fortunate I get to ride along and contribute heavily to what our path might look like.

Games of Thrones quote

I’ve never seen this show. It’s the one about meth, right?

You Must Trust

With how much energy needs to be spent building and doing, there just isn’t time for mistrust. That’s not to say there’s no room for doubt or discontent views – as those things are what help make the company that much greater when they’re used productively. No, I mean you have to trust that you were hired for a reason and every single other person was too.

Trust me.

Toby, our CEO talked at a recent meeting about how every person in the room was an All-Star and how they basically refused to hire anyone that wasn’t. That wasn’t just motivational fluff, either. I’m daily in awe of the sheer talent housed at Kapost HQ right now. It’s like how professional sports teams are made up of the best players from each college or minor league team. With each new hire, our talent pool grows greater, and with so little time to fully adjust to working with new people, you have to trust they’re here because they’re awesome at what they do, and you must trust management’s choice in bringing them in.

I trust and respect my fellow marketers. I still don’t know their entire histories but in such a short time I’ve seen how good they are at what they do. Our designers and developers are phenomenal. I trust they’ll continue to improve our product, and continue to help us create amazing content to market with. If you don’t have this attitude, you can’t last long.

It’s Safe to Be A Tech Nerd

I love apps. In a post later this week, I’ll be detailing some of my must-haves such as IFTTT, Tempo, Pocket, & Evernote, but in the meantime I’ll tell you I’ve found myself in good company when nerding out about apps and tech that make our professional and personal lives easier at Kapost.

Technology

It’s been fun to work with a group of tech-forward people and to watch a vast array of apps and tools that have been used in prior work lives make their way into the Kapost process. Tools like Salesforce, Eloqua, Trello, Meldium, WordPress, Jive, Skype, Moz, Sprout Social, Nimble, & the Google Suite (from Gmail to gCal to Hangouts to Docs) make their way into daily lives at Kapost, and even better – many of them sync with our software platform as well. It’s amazing to actually be able to use Kapost the software – which we all do – to be ultimately productive as well. I’ve struggled in the past with companies being afraid to take on new tech, whereas at Kapost we’re always trying new tools to help us figure out what gives us the best mix of production and measurement.

I’ve learned many other lessons from my month at Kapost, and will share more as time goes on I’m sure. For now, those 4 lessons stood out to me. It’s been a thrilling, exhausting experience already but I wake up invigorated for what’s next each day. Check out Kapost the product at Kapost.com and read a variety of marketing insights from Kaposters (myself included) on the Content Marketeer blog.

3 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned After One Month at a Startup

  1. Pingback: What I’ve Learned After Four Months at a Startup | Oh. Hey There.

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