I was first exposed to entrepreneurship when I worked alongside entrepreneurs at a large professional services and consultancy firm. Working hand in hand with entrepreneurs to refine their business plans, plan their growth and acquisition strategy, I discovered the drive, vision and ambition that was required to build a business from the ground up. What sometimes bugged me is that by the time we knew the business more extensively, it was time to move on to another mandate due to the transactional nature of our services, playing just a key role at a particular junction in their growth story. But, I wanted more. I wanted to see what was next in their journey.
One day, I decided it was time for me to transition from corporate finance advisory to an in-house financial planning & strategy position at an ecommerce startup. A Montreal-based company had just raised a large round of financing and one of the founders, whom I had met a year before, reached out asking if I would be interested in such a position. I packed my bags and left my job in the UK to move back to Montreal and start in a hip, yet foreign startup environment.
A foreign new territory
On my first week in the startup ecosystem, I was bombarded with information and ideas. It was “sink or swim” from the get-go as certain goals and expectations are set for you with little guidance on how to get there. Things just needed to get done, and it was up to me to figure it out. That’s when I truly understood one of the challenges in the startup world, you don’t necessarily have historic data or benchmarks when building something new, you can’t simply target an improvement versus the prior year. You need to make educated decisions, define what success is and learn to fail fast.
In well-established, mature companies, the decision-making process can be lengthy. In smaller organizations, not so much. In a startup, you can simply walk to the founder’s office and have a five minute discussion to make a decision as opposed to setting up meetings two weeks out with a committee to get an approval. On the other hand, in a company that is perhaps 1/100th the size of a larger organization, risks and failures aren’t as costly. That being said, as small organizations grow, more structure is needed and detailed planning is necessary. It is, however, key to keep a quick and agile decision making decision process as it is one of the strengths of fast growing businesses.
Adjusting to the pace
One year in a fast growing business feels like several in real life. Although everything continues to go very fast and new challenges constantly arise, it’s increasingly important to take the time to step back and plan where you want to be in 6, 9, 12 and even 18 months, using data as much as possible to drive decision-making. You learn that you can’t buy experience but can definitely accelerate your learning curve when failing and succeeding fast in the startup ecosystem. My prior consultancy job was key to learning best practices, solid work ethics and a robust methodology but you learn how to grow and operate a fast-growing business on a day-to-day when working in a startup.
That’s where I am right now in my startup journey; there is never a dull moment and this environment continues to surprise me with its speed of innovation. At TrackTik, I’ve been able to enjoy a different sort of innovation too: how a software company is reshaping and injecting new life to the physical security service industry. If you’re up for a startup challenge like no other, then come join our team at TrackTik.