Entering startups in their early stages is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and professionals in the product field in general to contribute to their growth and have a significant impact on the market. However, striking a balance between not rushing to demonstrate value and exceeding expectations while respecting existing processes and decisions can be quite challenging. In this post, I explore the ideas shared by Will Larson in his article “The rush to show value”, which are extremely relevant, and I attempt to provide a counterpoint by emphasizing the importance of embracing a “co-founder mindset.” By understanding the intricacies of this balance, individuals can create a high impact and exceed expectations in their early months of work.
The rush to prove oneself
In his article “The rush to show value”, Will Larson discusses the common mistake of rushing to demonstrate value when starting a new job, ignoring the fact that one likely does not yet possess all the necessary knowledge for making such decisions and changes. Larson recommends taking precautions to avoid relying on instincts based on outdated information and ensuring that one has acquired all the necessary knowledge. Some suggested strategies include: avoiding irreversible decisions initially, setting limits for high-impact changes, establishing relationships with colleagues to obtain feedback and gain their buy-in for proposed decisions. The key is to approach the new job with curiosity, humility, and engagement to avoid pitfalls associated with the rush to prove oneself.
The other side of the coin
After many years of working in startups in Brazil and Europe, I have witnessed various situations where the performance of new employees was questioned. The rush to prove oneself is undoubtedly one of the most recurring phenomena, but during this time, I have also witnessed the opposite side: individuals with an excellent resume and extensive experience who demonstrate performance well below expectations in the first months of work by acting too passively, failing to take initiative to execute tasks beyond the obvious ones. I often think that such individuals missed the opportunity to adopt the “co-founder mindset.”
Embracing the co-founder mindset
Embracing a co-founder mindset when entering startups in their early stages means seeking to fill all the gaps that you, with your skills, knowledge, and willingness, can. By thinking like a founder and acting proactively, your focus will be on the success of your project, not just fulfilling your tasks. The co-founder mindset nurtures an entrepreneurial spirit and encourages individuals to seize opportunities and go beyond mere “requirements.”
While the co-founder mindset is crucial, it is equally important to respect the existing processes and decisions within the startup. Early-stage companies often have established ways of working and a unique culture. Disregarding these elements and attempting to reinvent the wheel can harm team dynamics and create unnecessary friction. Respecting the contributions and achievements of others is essential to maintain a positive work environment and promote a healthy and strong culture.
Finding the Perfect Balance
Finding the right balance between not rushing to demonstrate value and surpassing expectations poses a challenge that individuals entering early-stage startups must face. To achieve this balance, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the product’s goals. Some strategies I could mention for managing this balance are:
- Align with your managers and peers on their expectations for your first months of work. These points represent the minimum necessary to avoid having your performance questioned.
- Don’t wait too long to propose changes, but clearly explain the reasons and the benefits that the proposed changes will bring.
- Take initiative to solve problems and fill gaps that you identify.
By embracing these responsibilities and actively seeking opportunities to contribute and collaborate with your teammates, you will make a significant impact and drive the startup’s success. Finding this balance requires understanding, patience, and adaptability. By doing so, you will become a valuable asset, unlock collective potential, and help the startup reach new levels of success.