May 7, 2013

Carrying the Fire: How To Keep The Startup Mentality Alive

Written by

It’s all about the “startup mentality.”  A team that never says never as they put every ounce of energy they can muster into making their dream a success.  They are driven and dedicated and they don’t even notice when the office is littered with Ramen noodle wrappers and they’ve been wearing the same hoodie for three weeks straight.  Stuff like hygiene doesn’t matter when you’re working on something that will change the world.  They’ve got gumption.

The problem is that startups are designed to grow fast, or fail fast in some cases.  So what happens to the gumption when your team really does succeed and the they go from thinking only about work to thinking about a vacation?  Do they just wake up one day and start focusing on balancing the demands of investors, stakeholders and the board from their swanky new office spaces?  When does the startup mentality turn into turn grownup mentality?

According to Funders and Founders, a company that connects startups with funders, the success rate for startups varies according to the entrepreneur’s  amount of experience.  Only 12% of first-time entrepreneurs will make it on their first attempt, however 20% of them do go on to achieve success with their second attempt.  And that number jumps to a 30% success rate for those veteran entrepreneurs who finally IPO’d success with their third startup.  You just have to be willing to keep launching more and more startups until one of them succeeds.  You have to use your gumption.  The problem now is figuring out how to keep that level of excitement and motivation alive once the business is actually thriving.

Some will become startup addicts and continue finding opportunities that keep their mentality intact.   It’s like the Peter Pan complex for entrepreneurs – they’ll never grow up and turn corporate.  But others will stick with their successful startup and build their own corporate ladder.  In this case, the most successful strategy for sustaining your startup mentality is in keeping a team-oriented environment.  Maintaining a close-knit team is tough with a big group but encouraging open dialogue and an open door policy is a good way to start.  Go back to basics.  Incorporate brainstorming sessions and empower employees to make decisions and you will foster a sense of ownership like you would see in a startup.  Whether you’re holding on to the startup mentality you have or trying to rejuvenate a tired team, the challenges that await you are undeniable.  It may not be the easiest way to run a business but it sure does seem to be the most rewarding.