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Startups Strategy

“Make It Work” – My Key Takeaway From Working in Start-ups

Working in a start-up environment is never easy. There’s always so much to do! But at the same time, it can be very rewarding and a great learning experience as I learned first-hand working in MNCs starting their operations in Asia Pacific and also local start-ups expanding out of Singapore.

I could go on and on about what I learnt but if I had to summarize, it would be:

“Make it work.”

What does “make it work” mean in a start-up?

“Make it work” is a combination of skills and attitude that allows an individual to perform well and contribute in start-up environments.

  • In a start-up, operations are often lean and you may wear one hat officially but end up handling work outside of your job function in order to ensure operations can run smoothly. This requires you to be able to work outside of your comfort zone and grasp new concepts quickly.
  • Even within the defined job function, there’s often no one around to tell you what to do and how to do it. There may not be any past projects for you to reference. Need to run a new kind of project that you’ve never done before? Go research it and evaluate to your best ability, and figure out how you should proceed. You need to have initiative and problem-solving abilities to work independently. You’ve got to have the attitude that you’re going to find a way to get the job done.
  • When the team is lean, it is highly likely that you are working concurrently on many things, big and small. This requires strong time management and project management skills.
  • Processes and systems may sometimes be lacking but these are very important to the organisation being able to run smoothly. It’s certainly a good thing to ask around to find out what the existing process is but if you hit a wall or find that it’s inadequate, you need to have the ability to create/modify/improve on the processes/systems. These also need to be able to scale as operations grow.

You may not already have these skills at the start but if you can learn them as you go along, they will come in handy no matter where your career takes you. I continue to apply these learnings and have found it helps me to execute well even in larger organizations!

Did I miss something that should be added to the “Make it work” mix? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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