A few months ago on a plane traveling back from a speaking event, I met an "airplane friend" who was not happy about his "typical Corporate America job." Although this guy in his late 30’s kept repeating that he was thankful to have a job, he opened up to me as only an airplane friend can. He described his current job as a “soul-sucking, politically-correct wage cage.” In fact, in a country where the Small Business Administration now reports over 60 percent of all new jobs have been created by small businesses, this disgruntled member of corporate America confessed to me that he actually wanted to start his own business. Much to my surprise, after sharing his situation with me, he said, “I've been saving up, but I'm really worried about what happens if my business idea doesn't work."
As he was speaking, a little President Dwight Eisenhower quote popped up into my cranium, which I shared with him, “If you want total security, go to prison. They're you are fed, clothed and given medical care. The only thing lacking...is freedom.”
By this time, I could smell something burning within this "airplane friend” called the fire of desire. He explained the perks that he had including insurance, retirement and on-site lunches but his contributions went unnoticed and his work was not meaningful.
He shared the realities of sitting in a personality neutral cubical among thousands of other people plugging away in near silence as they worked on tasks filled with bureaucracy, procedures and jargon. He could no longer even explain to his family what he did for a living.
I explained to him, by contrast, I have been self-employed since the age of 18 and that every day I wake up with the odd sensation that my hair is on fire and that I am being chased by a carnivorous wild animal called "competition."
Here are six reasons my "airplane friend" should throw in the corporate towel and launch -- or work for – a startup.
1. You get to know your boss.
In the startup work environment, you get to have a relationship with your boss, the investors and the key members of the team. Startups are like families -- you see the good, the bad and the ugly, but in the end you’ve got each other’s back. Keep in mind, because everyone is so close, try to avoid drama. When conflicts arise, make sure they get addressed immediately and people don't dwell on past issues.
2. You help create the company culture.
Big successful corporations have established their own culture by the time you come along, so you have as high of a chance of changing their overall culture as you have of convincing the U.S. Marines to adopt the "long-haired look" as their standard military haircut. Startup culture fosters laughter, debate and a passionate non-politically correct focus on getting things done. And this startup of culture is something entrepreneurs struggle to maintain, as the business grows. To ensure this environment continues, create a strong foundation and ensure everyone is on board.
3. Your work matters.
Because most startups are lean and scrappy organizations consisting of a limited number of people and supported by an even smaller number of resources, startups cannot afford to have any slackers on board. When you fail, you cause an "epic failure" and when you win, everyone in the company knows about it. But either way, you are making a difference and learning quickly from your mistakes.
4. You get to be an "in" trepreneur.
Most entrepreneurs are the crazy people who pull all-nighters and do whatever it takes to convince the world that it needs their solution, but when you work at a startup you get to be an "in-trepreneur." Basically, you get to be entrepreneurial within the organization. If you have a great idea to increase the bottom line, you have the ear of the top dogs. You gain experience in many areas of the business as you are usually wearing multiple hats simultaneously.
5. You witness change happening quickly.
Instead of asking your boss a question that results in the formation of committee and then tabling the idea until next month's board meeting, startups decisions are made quickly. And this sort of fast pace results in growth which helps you gain experience in a multitude of areas while also being part of a company where your input makes a difference.
My philosophy is this: Life is not a dress rehearsal, so you might as well aim to thrive, not just survive.