It has never been "hipper" to be part of a startup than it is today. Every day countless entrepreneurs start a new venture riding on the hopes and dreams of office beer pong tournaments, during 30h long workdays while high on caffein.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of beer, coffee and hard work in general, however, it seems the venture utopia is many times focusing only on the end product while neglecting the quality of the journey and the health of the pillars.
What defines a startup?
A startup is a company or project initiated by an entrepreneur to seek, effectively develop, and validate a scalable business model
And that's it. It has everything to do with size or model and very little with chaos or shooting-from-the-hip strategies.
Of course new companies and teams are a lot less prepared to handle a whole lot of scenarios in comparison with mature corporates. Being "manpower", experience, resources or good ol' cheddar cheese, it's a lot easier to keep organised for these companies.
Sometimes, however, all that's keeping small startups from actually being better is the underlying mindset.
Being a small startup is not a valid excuse
There is an ocean of valid excuses for a startup to fail at any of the different aspects of a business. Like said before, the lack of resources, for example, can greatly affect pretty much any aspect of your company in one way or another, and that's a perfectly understandable excuse.
Not being able to improve on A or B because one lacks the necessary people and is not able to hire is perfectly valid. Being able to hire and choosing not to, is really not.
It has everything to do with what you can do about something. If you can act but don't because the startup environment is supposed to be this ad-hoc hustling chaos, think again.
Organising will not make you less cool
One tends to associate processes and structure to the boring, strict and corporate world, while we think of startups as agile, dynamic, young and vibrant organisms. And this is cool.
You know what else is cool? Peace of mind, product quality and healthy teams.
Being organised and having some degree of sanity-check processes will not cut your productivity, flexibility or vibe. If one thing, it will give you the focus and backbone you need to adapt to any situation with minimum impact.
What is easy to neglect?
While we're focusing on selling whatever it is we're doing, some things fall under the radar. Examples of easy things to neglect are:
Focusing only on the what and not the how will really risk the quality of the end product, regardless of what it is. Know what and where not to compromise.
From sticking to existing ones or creating new, these have a way of moving from mandatory to optional like avocados from green to pitch black. Respect the structure or change it if it doesn't help, but commit to one.
Whether it's communication with clients, managing expectations or general talks with the teams, winging your day will eventually shut you off from most of the things that need your attention on the long term in favor of last-minute requests.
Resist the urge to answer these unless they are really breaking.
Take pride in being good.
Being good at something is tough work, and I'm not even talking about your product. Having a good recruitment experience, communicating properly, being aware and responsive of the surroundings, etc, all of these are things that take serious time and effort to keep working inside a team, and it shows.
A company is a living thing and all the moving parts need love. Don't just think about what you're selling. Take these seriously and be proud if you get good at any of them, because it's really hard to do.
We rarely live in a perfect world, specially on the early startup times where many mistakes will happen. Trick is to stay humble, challenge yourself and your organisation.
Put up a post-it wall with all the things you're not really proud of and really challenge the "whys" you can't improve on them.
There is zero shame in having limitations, but there is at least some in neglecting things.