So, you’ve beaten the odds and lasted longer than most startups. But in the process, your company has grown -- a lot. In fact, that playful climate that once defined your company has morphed into something more … serious, almost business-like. Your entrepreneurial baby no longer feels like it once did and you miss that startup vibe.
Hey, it’s normal. A startup only lasts for so long until it must scale its infrastructure, systems and processes to accommodate the (hopefully) increased customer demand and the hundred or thousand other employees who now define the brand.
If you’re wondering what you can do to revert back to the good ol’ days, here are 11 ways to remind both yourself and your team of what it feels like to start something from nothing, and why you’re better off now:
1. Keep the lights off. If your computer monitor lights up, that’s all you need.
2. Flush the toilet every other time (but close the door). A brand new business is cool at first, until the bills start coming in. Water can be costly -- especially if you’re well hydrated.
3. Use both sides of printer paper. After printing and realizing you have the wrong printout, reinsert the paper upside down to print on the backside.
4. Avoid air conditioning. True startups don’t worry about the temperature because they’re too worried about making money.
5. Turn off the heat. Who says 55 degrees in the office is cold? Hard chargers just throw on another layer, and another.
6. Stand up. The early-phase entrepreneur prefers standing to sitting, mainly because there are no funds in the corporate bank account to provide seats.
7. Don't order in. Yup, ramen noodles all … day … long. If those sodium-filled-bowls don’t quite do the trick, you can always try the military equivalent, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Mmm.
8. Exercise rigorously -- and don’t shower. I don’t know about you, but I turn into a grumpopotamus if I don’t work out (think hippopatomus but grumpy). Of course, stress relief may be a human need to remain balanced, but showering isn’t. Try going to an every-other-day schedule of personal hygiene if you really want to bring back the early days.
9. Throw things. When I think of a startup, the image of a free-for-all comes to mind -- people laughing, having fun and throwing paper airplanes around the office as if it were D-Day. Nothing says “fun” like paper airplanes 'buzzing the tower' like Maverick in the movie Top Gun.
However, since safety never has a day off (that’s a joke), keep the projectiles light. (Disclaimer: the author assumes no liability for office projectiles).
10. Reduce medical expenses. Keep a first-aid kit in the drawer (ideally not in the highest cupboard in the office that vertically-challenged people cannot reach) for when those paper airplanes zing somebody in the eye. What did you say? Somebody severed his finger in the paper cutter? Just ice it. Boom. Problem solved.
11. Enter a new market, every day. My last deployment in the SEALs felt as if we were selecting targets by posting a map of the area on a dart board. Wherever a dart landed, that's where we’d go. Of course, that wasn’t the case. It was more because the “industry” had changed.
The point is that if you’re sensing a stalemate with your current product or service, don’t be afraid to throw a dart and see where it takes you. Try a new social-media strategy, an alternative marketing plan or get a fresh set of eyes. If the dart lands off target (i.e. the board), consider that as an option, too.
The bottom line is that at some point, a startup will have to adapt to the complexity of the competition if they want to remain competitive, and they do so by scaling their infrastructure to accommodate their company’s service with customer demand. Nothing says a 10,000-person company can’t be fun to work for, leaders just need to have a proactive mindset.