Well, I’m back again but this time to tell the story of everything I have learned over the last few months before I make my exit stage left to work full time at Abercrombie and Fitch Corporate in Columbus, OH. The start of my journey was about as interesting as it gets, and now as my time with the team here at HatchPad comes to a close I thought it might be pertinent to write about my time working for a new startup. Every business and team have their challenges, their ups, and downs, and we are no different. But nothing worth having comes without a little bit of fight and a lot (A LOT) of hard work. So these are just a few of many lessons I learned over the past 5(ish) months.
A.B.L. (Always Be Learning)
Starting as a new employee at any company, without a doubt, has a huge learning curve. Starting as a new employee at a startup is like a learning curve on six shots of espresso and lemongrass. That is to say, it is steep and ever-changing. Like many of the people my age, the world of startups is bright and shiny and glamorous. The millennial generation grew up with Facebook, Snapchat, Uber, and Instagram as the gold standard for making a start-up. What we don’t always see is the constant trial and error and learning that goes on behind the scenes. The team here is no exception. We are constantly trying new marketing strategies, connecting with new people, testing new ideas and then deciding what works and what doesn’t. And the truth is that you very rarely get it right on the first try, and that is perfectly fine. You must be willing to keep trying and keep learning in order to find success.
You’ll wear many hats
Please, don’t literally wear multiple hats, but think metaphorically. The thing about any new startup is that you generally start out by yourself or with a very small team to work with. When I first started with Heather and the team here at HatchPad, I’m not sure exactly what I thought would happen, but I can tell you I ended up playing more roles than I even knew existed. I absolutely loved this aspect. It makes your work dynamic and forces you to constantly use different parts of your brain and to continue to learn new skills (cc: A.B.L.). And the hats I wore were nothing in comparison to what I watched Heather Holst-Knudsen do. On a normal day, she played the CEO, founder, marketer, website project manager, sales manager, blogger, fundraiser, intern trainer, accountant, event planner, keep your investors happy roles and did the work, of something like 20 people for both HatchPad and KidBacker Foundation for Entrepreneurship (our sister 501c3). When you get started, and even as the company continues to grow, this kind of cross-functionality multi-tasking is the key to success.
One really helpful piece with this is to seek out a mentor/coach that will work through it all with you. Be that within your own business, or someone else outside of your company, this person can undoubtedly help you glide through all of these roles. We built our platform specifically to help with this aspect, so don’t look past the need for experience and assistance.
Don’t take it personally
This, I think, is an issue particularly relevant with the millennial generation and it’s about time we own up to it (or at least I do). When I would work on something, be that a blog post, or some sort of Instagram image, and it didn’t get the traction or attention I was thinking it would I took it like a personal attack from the world. Or if someone had constructive feedback about a project I had worked on, I let it affect me on a far too personal level. Here is the lesson to be learned: feedback is necessary to continue to grow and be successful. Realizing that every situation offers the potential to hone your skills and grow will really help to separate this kind of emotion. When you are working in a startup, every project or initiative has an effect and so it needs to be as close to perfect as possible. And even then, there is never a guarantee on how anything will be received by the public. It’s not a malicious attack on your person, it’s just the world laying out some improvements that can be made.
Without feedback, especially the kind that does not make you feel so good, you won’t grow as a professional and your career will stall. It’s necessary and needed and when you’re the boss one day, you will be giving this same gift to your team.
There’s no rest for the wicked
Alright, so no one here is wicked but the phrase is really applicable. Though this is a great piece of advice for life in general, it is particularly relevant for working in this industry. There is always something else to be doing, a project to be started, or completed, or edited. There is someone that can be contacted or an investor to check-in with. What I mean is just that it’s a never-ending list of to-dos. This isn’t meant to scare or stress but just a simple realization. There would be days where I sent emails for 3 hours straight, wrote one blog post (which trust me, takes far longer than you think), edited another blog post, posted on all of our social media, and created and crafted various necessary images. By the time I got to the end of this I was ready to take a much needed nap. But the fact of the matter is that there were still plenty of things to get done, and there always will be. Learn to prioritize your list of to-do’s, and learn to be comfortable with a to-do list that will never be completed.
Passion IS the key
This is not something I exactly experienced but rather something I witnessed. I joined the team at HatchPad because it sounded really interesting, and I believe in what we are doing. But my belief comes no where near in comparison to the passion that HatchPad’s CEO Heather exhibits everyday. I know I already mentioned that she wears many hats but you don’t really understand the vigor and excitement by which she talks about what she’s doing. And when you see her get upset about something or want something done a certain way it is because you know that everyday she is working to make opportunities for young people and that she’s fighting with everything she has to do this. I talked about finding your passion before but in truth, I’m still finding mine. But seeing Heather do everything, everyday, without seemingly ever being tired, reminds me that when you’re passionate about what you do, it will never feel like work and it will always get you up in the morning and take you into the wee hours of the night. Passion is the world’s most natural form of energy.
And with that, I bid you all adieu (at least for the time being). Love what you’re doing, love one another, and the world will be a better place because of it.