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Category: employee

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Why You Should Work at a Startup

Startup communities are cropping up all over the world. Global News called 2014 ‘The Year of Startup Communities’. Almost every day, a new accelerator program is announced. We prefer the announcements and results coming out of existing accelerators than to hear another one has been born, but still - the spirit of the entrepreneur is spreading. Since anyone with a computer and an internet connection can start a company, and learning to code is becoming cooler than ever; the growth and unwavering hype around everything startups does not look like it’s going to slow anytime soon.


If you’re reading this you might already have an interest in startups. You might not have a ‘big idea’ right now, and might not be an innovation leader yet - but have you ever considered working for a startup? Your interest doesn’t need to be as a co-founder, and you don’t need to aspire to be the next Zuck - startups need good people and people need to do work they’re passionate about. You don’t even need to necessarily have experience - fresh grads and startups are a great match.


Here’s why we think YOU should consider working for a startup:


  1. Startups need good talent arguably more than large companies do. Lets face it, large companies have enough man power to get things done while they are busy looking for more staff. They’re going to get by. But for a startup, every day missing a key skill or knowledge can be crippling.
  2. Second-to-none experience to be gained. In large companies there are teams of people working on key tasks or objectives. You won’t always get a chance to try something new. Startups need confident and ready risk-takers. The best lessons and experiences come from diving in and having a go because there’s simply no time to waste! With your contract you’re handed a lot more responsibility at startups than you might find at established companies, which leads us to number 3…
  3. Maximum impact. Being with a company from its humble beginnings means you get to see your passion and hard work make real impact over time, influencing the outcome of the team’s work. Been chipping away at your established workplace for years, but not feeling fulfilled or like you’ve made an impact? Startups are everywhere and they’re ready for your influence. Alex Lynn of Real Ventures told MTL NewTech last month that people working for startups benefit from seeing the future before it happens - meaning these people are also shaping the future.
  4. Savvy graduates need not be just a number. Large companies are full of faces. Numbers, even. Fresh grads are often lured by well-known brand names and companies with impressive history. But will you be just another number? Choose a startup and you might just skip years of waiting for promotions, waiting to be noticed and waiting to make an impact - for your moment to shine. You can step into high-level positions right away, or maybe even just something closer to the job you really want; you don’t always have to spend years working towards that if you find the right fit at a startup.
  5. Increased flexibility. Although a lot of companies are switching it up to let you work remotely, (P&G major announcement last year, Work From Home Program) many startups don’t have offices yet and working from home or the nearest cafe with WIFI can often be the norm. Plus, if your startup hooks up with a local co-op space, you’ll experience a fresh and new kind of environment. These kinds of shared spaces can spark creativity and innovation just by being surrounded by people equally as passionate from other like-minded companies doing all kinds of different and amazing things.


Busbud CEO and Co-Founder LP Maurice, a leader in the Montreal startup community thinks you should work for a startup too. “I think that startups offer some of the most exciting career opportunities right now, partly because you can learn a lot very rapidly, partly because you can play an active role defining your work environment, but mostly because of the potential to have a big direct impact on society.”.


Even the PPLCONNECT Co-Founders Jenviev Azzolin and Denzil D’Sa left a large, Fortune 500 company to begin PPLCONNECT. Jenviev shares her view on the appeal of startups;


Startups offer very meaningful experience, especially for young graduates eager to learn quickly and accelerate their career. Typically, startups have very little to no hierarchy, which means you can gain a wide-breadth of experience and exposure to complex corporate challenges, which would otherwise be reserved for more senior employees. At the end of the day, you can have a major direct impact on your team, end-users and tackle a worldwide problem.


The trending keyword here seems to be ‘impact’. Having an impact in your daily work ultimately leads to fulfilling work. And the best part? The growth of startups means that supply of ready and willing startup employees is always low. If you find a startup you’re passionate about and you’re an intelligent person smart enough to know when to take risks, then the chance to shape the future is yours for the taking.



5 Keys to Keeping Your Developers Happy

Developers! Developers! Developers!

Steve Ballmer made this chant infamous, but the fact remains that developers are the lifeblood of software companies. This is especially true for web startups, where a good developer can be the difference between success and failure.

Most leaders understand this on an intellectual level. They know that good developers — especially those equipped for the startup world — are hard to find and even harder to keep. But in the day-to-day shuffle, it’s easy to take your developers for granted. This can be a fatal mistake.

Major companies like Google and Intuit (not to mention other startups) are always looking to poach rock-star developers, so it’s more important than ever to keep your developers satisfied.

Here’s how to keep them happy and make sure they’re productive:

1. Manage your expectations. Businesspeople often try to tell developers how long it takes to do things, but this approach doesn’t make any sense. It would be like developers telling you how long it should take you to raise your next capital round.

Understand that no one has ever built your exact requirements before — otherwise, you wouldn’t need to build anything. You will change your mind after the project begins (as you should), and things will come up that no one thought about before. That’s the reality of building complex software — and most custom software is complex.

Having unrealistic deadlines not only frustrates developers, but it has the potential to disappoint shareholders who might not realize how many unknowns there are when it comes to building software. Communicate with your developers throughout the project to stay on top of any obstacles or unforeseen circumstances that may require a shift in deadlines and expectations. Everyone is working toward the same goal; the road may just be longer than expected.

Work together with your developers to create mutually realistic estimates. Better yet, use Scrum agile methodology and build out your stories with complexity levels. Using an agile framework provides a continuous gauge on the anticipated completion dates based on the team’s actual “velocity” on the project. This “velocity” takes into account delays on feedback, internal politics, level of cooperation, and possible tool setbacks.

2. Pay them. Well, of course you’re paying your developers, but make sure you’re paying them enough. If your programmers feel like they’re not being paid what they’re worth, they won’t be as motivated to work hard. Pay them enough to take the money issue off the table entirely.

3. Challenge them. Programmers, especially the best ones, are driven, creative people always looking for the next interesting problem to solve. The best developers will get bored if they don’t have a challenge every now and then.

Let your programmers build something in a new framework or build out an internal tool to help your business operations. Intuit challenges all its employees to come up with game-changing ideas during its “unstructured time,” and Facebook has a long tradition of all-night hackathons, where the only rule is that developers must work on something different from their day jobs. You could even consider giving them free time on Fridays to build whatever they’d like — that’s how Google made Gmail, after all.

4. Let them make decisions. Good developers will be adults if you let them. If you create extremely tight policies and highly structured environments for developers to work within, you’ll limit innovation, creativity, and motivation. Like Daniel Pink wrote in “Drive,” “People need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with), and technique (how they do it).” So give them some autonomy.

You should also implement a framework in which developers can give input on the direction of a product. Make sure they have ownership of the idea or product. At Path, all employees have access to the social network’s source code, and they’re encouraged to make changes if something is broken or if they have an idea to improve the user experience.

5. Give them a direction. As the leader of your company, it’s your job to come up with the vision and communicate it to your employees. If they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing, they won’t be as motivated. Give your developers a driving purpose that they can get excited about. For everyone to be in it together, everyone must know exactly what “it” is.

Implementing these key steps can help put your developers into a state of flow. You can do this by giving them meaningful projects, ensuring that they have the ability to set their own schedules around their peak performance times, allowing them to customize their working environment, and challenging them. Otherwise, you might want to start learning Ruby yourself.


Zach Ferres is the CEO of Ciplex, a full-service interactive agency that helps clients succeed online by creating award-winning digital solutions for online marketing, E-commerce and content management systems, and social network platforms. Follow them on Twitter.


Improve Your Management Standards and Surpass the Growing Economy

The UK economy is predicted to grow by 2.2% in 2014, and the Service sector looks like it will be the top performer. Good news perhaps, but now is certainly not the time for any business to be complacent. Whatever its market sector, all businesses need to raise their performance levels to ensure they are competitive, both nationally and globally. Of course having a stellar management team is a definite advantage. However, it’s often the basics, such as having efficient, robust systems in place, that are overlooked - a self-imposed barrier to raising your game. You may not even have proper systems; you just do it the way you’ve always done it.

Quality Standards have been around for well over 100 years. The British Standard Mark – the ‘Kitemark’ - was introduced way back in 1903 to reassure buyers that the product they were purchasing was quite simply “up to standard.” Today, it’s not just the quality of products that count but the quality of a business’s management systems. ISO 9001 is now the world’s most recognized standard with more than 1,000,000 organizations having certifications, with China at the top of the leader board.

ISO Standards now cover diverse areas such as environmental management, health and safety, energy performance, quality management specific to the aerospace industry, and the security of sensitive information and data, which certainly wasn’t on the agenda in 1903. Although ISO certification is not mandatory, there does appear to be a compelling business case, not least that many of the new Standards have been developed to ensure that businesses comply with current and new legislation. And complying with legislation is not voluntary.

 So what can an ISO certification bring?


  • Cost Savings by streamlining and optimizing processes and operations, improving profitability.
  • Customer Satisfaction, increased credibility and confidence, and better customer service, which increase sales.
  • A Toolkit to help you proactively manage your business effectively.
  • The Framework for continuous improvement.
  • Opening new markets by having preferred supplier status.
  • More efficient use of resources.
  • Improved risk management.
  • Access to global management expertise and examples of best practice.
  •  Reassurance that you are complying with all necessary legislation.


Unlike previous Standards loathed by many, ISO is simple to manage and maintain. No longer is there the need to destroy a small rainforest with a mountain of paper-based documentation – it can all be handled on a web-based secure interface.

If you’re looking for a significant ROI, ISO certification looks like a pretty safe bet.



5 Ways to Eat The “Elephants In The Room”

Dealing with organizational conflict bites.


From time to time, every company faces big, lumbering “elephant in the room” type topics, and the best leaders know how to find and address them. Too often, we create business cultures that cause our colleagues to shrink back from politically sensitive issues. Stop it! Follow these 5 tips to munch your elephants, one bite at a time.


1. Embrace the Elephants


Don’t stick your head in the sand. Accept, with humility, the fact that there are issues you and your team are afraid to handle. Here, Meg Cabot would chime in to remind us, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Building a culture of transparency and candor must trump your fear of internal friction. Only then, can you inspire your followers to accelerate performance.


2. Ask Questions


Question don’t dictate. When Google set out to identify the top 3 traits of a successful manager, number 2 was helping their teammates puzzle through problems with questions rather than forcing top-down solutions. Begin with the assumption that your team has a different perspective on the elephants than you do. As the CEO of one of our global software clients likes to say, “perception is reality.” You’ve got to identify and compare your people’s perceptions before remediating.


3. Protect Anonymity


Anonymous feedback is honest feedback. At 9Lenses, we query thousands of knowledge workers each year and the responses to our People Lens “elephants in the room” question never cease to amaze. Anonymous respondents will point to the root cause of financial reporting issues, spot burgeoning law suits, pin down strategic blind spots, or identify the stairwell black sheep coworkers use to “get high.” Political realities often prevent employees from sharing candid insights with superiors, but those walls come down when you use technology to protect stakeholder identity.


4. Overcome Offsite


You must devote intentional time—like a strategic offsite—to dealing with your elephants. Often times, problems between business leaders are allowed to fester until employees become incapable of discussing the subject in the same room. At 9Lenses, we conquer thick-tusked trunks at 2-day offsites.


Here are some of the ground rules our CEO uses to break down barriers:

  • Divide everybody into open forum idea generation teams to tackle the top elephants raised in our anonymous Business 360.
  • Each team must be comprised of people that disagree about the top 3 elephants to encourage cross-functional solutions.
  • Use competitive incentives to drive collaboration. Every team votes to award points to the team with the most promising set of next action steps for each elephant. At the end of the offsite, a popularly elected MVP and the team with the most points win cash prizes.
  • Mix the personal and the professional. Throughout the offsite we play “getting to know you games.” By the end of our time together, we know one another’s families, nicknames, and those funny little idiosyncrasies that make us all so different, yet amusingly similar.


5. Lather, Rinse, Repeat


At the end of the offsite, we re-assess. Everyone enters final thoughts on overlooked elephants into a “one-question” interview app — that data serves as the starting point for our quarterly culture comprehension pulses. Change is our only constant. So, we continually capture real-time data to track front-line risks and emerging opportunities before they turn into Dumbo-sized squashers.


Now it’s your turn. Get after it.  Doesn’t matter if this is your 1st or 9,000th day on the job. The best time to start building a culture of transparent accountability is now. And once you get going, shoot us a tweet and let us know how your pachyderm tasted.