You’re building a business

By Jim Grey (about)

I think there’s a miss in how startups recruit. They hype the interesting problems they have to solve and their cool company culture. But those are only two of the three things they need to hype. The last one is that together, you get to build a great business.

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Under construction

If that doesn’t sound very interesting or exciting to you, well, it should. Seeing your work lead to a company’s overall success is enormously rewarding. And given a startup’s size and scale, you have an outsize ability to affect that.

Does the company you work for share financial results and business plans with you? The one I work for does, once a quarter. We all get to see how much money we’re making and how much is left. And we are updated on our strategy to get to our planned next business phase. All of this tells us where we are on our corporate journey. Are you clear on what your company’s journey is?

(Sidebar: It is interesting to me that in my career, the companies where I’ve been the happiest are also the ones that shared financials and strategies. Not all companies do it. I think companies that do it get how it brings the company together as one.)

When you understand that journey, you understand the larger context your work lives in. It helps you make better decisions in the moment, ones that let you deliver the right balance of speed, quality, and scope.

If you don’t see now how building your business is an exciting journey, you will when your company meets its goals. Especially in a startup, it will be impossible to miss how your work made it real.

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4 thoughts on “You’re building a business

  1. A similar thing can still happen in large companies. I worked in microprocessor design and verification at my prior employer, which was predominantly, 95%, a software company not a hardware company. They refused to publish how many wafers we started for each processor we designed (a good measure of how many chips we sold), meaning we had zero empirical evidence of how well we were doing, was our team worth the R&D, etc. It concerned me the whole time I was there. Then the layoffs happened, large layoffs. You are right that sharing the results of how the business is doing is important, but also at large companies.

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    1. I’m working in another startup now so that’s my context. I’ve never worked for a large tech company! I’ve worked for a large (insurance) company with a tech division, though. Anyway, great to know that it matters even at the kinds of big companies your career has led you to. BTW, I’m always interested in the challenges you share with me privately in email. So different from the challenges I live with.

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  2. Great perspective, Jim — and I could not agree more! My current employer has about 2,000 employees but one of the things I most appreciate is how “flat” the organization feels, and how transparent. We’re all invited to meet once a quarter en masse to go over the financials, review the long-term goals, and see whether our short-term goals are still appropriate to help us get there. While it can sometimes create a bit of anxiety in the short term when we’re collectively facing a big challenge, it also seems to help spur collective action. Knowledge is power, as they say.

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    1. I think there’s a post in me about transparency in companies. My experience has been that the companies that tell you the truth about what’s going on are the ones that are best to work for. Bad news (e.g., we’re not making our sales projections) does sting, but you’re right, it can cause people to band together and figure things out.

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