It’s very interesting working at a startup. There are a lot of challenges and obstacles involved with working in this kind of environment. It’s certainly not the same as working your standard office job, and without preparation you could definitely end up finding yourself in a world of hurt.

A little background about me

Before working at Source Metrics, I had done some independent things, I had worked at my university both as a student and on contract and I had also done a stint at the Federal Government of Canada as a developer. I have been working at Source Metrics (formerly known as SWIX) since October 2009 and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I wanted to work at a startup, I had read about startups and startup culture and what it takes to be an optimal member of a startup team; I was pretty gung ho. So when the opportunity arose to join the Source Metrics team I jumped on it, no second thoughts. Besides being pretty gung ho about the work, none of my previous work experience or schooling prepared me for what it was like to actually work at a startup.

Mike Grouchy, Henry Brown Source Metrics

What is it like to work at a very small startup?

Working at a very small startup is bound to keep you on your toes. Being on a team of only a few people (in our case it was 3 when I started) means that there is no one to pick up the slack. If you think something needs to be moved forward, you are likely the only one who will have opportunity to do it. Moving smart and fast is the name of the game. You are part of a company that is trying to prove that the thing you are doing has value and the only person you can depend on to execute your team’s vision is yourself.

How did I prepare for this?

I don’t know if you can ever be prepared completely, but here are some good tips to internalize before you look into joining a startup.

Be prepared to fail

Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as saying “Move fast and break things.” These are very useful words to live by in the startup world. Chances are this is the first time you, or possible anyone, has done the particular thing you are trying to do, so you are going to make mistakes. Embrace these mistakes as learning opportunities, discover where you went wrong and correct things going forward.

Create your own processes

If you are working on a very small team, or especially at a small startup there is likely not a lot of process in the company yet. This is a good thing. Process isn’t bad, but unneeded process can certainly make your team less agile. That being said, you need to get yourself organized, you need to create the processes that work for you and your team. These don’t have to demand a lot of time, even simple things like writing tests before any code is deployed or making sure that you have deploy checklists that need to be followed every time you deploy new code is a great start. The goal here is repeatability and reliability in your work. Having a consistent process that you follow in your work helps you achieve this.

Own your work

This is a good rule in general, but especially important at a startup. As we have already said, moving fast is often key, so there is very little chance someone is going to be checking in with you at every step to make sure your work is done. You need to take responsibility for this yourself, set reasonable timelines and commit to them. Responsibility for your work or, “owning it,” is crucial to your team’s success.


Be flexible. There is essentially an unending list of things to do and only a few people to do them, so be flexible and step out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn’t normally do to move the team’s progress forward.

If you read this and are still are interested in working for a startup, maybe this is the path for you. If you would like to know more about our amazing social media marketing and analytics platform, request a personalized demo today!

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