As an undergrad, I was enamored by the fast pace and seemingly unbound world of startups.
The potential to wear what I wanted, be my own boss and have full autonomy over how I budgeted my time appeared to be the promised land of post-graduate opportunities.
Although this should come as no surprise, my conception of a startup was more of a fallacy than a truth.
I’m on the marketing team at Cincinnati-based Rhinegeist Brewery. It's a startup brewery, and one of the fastest-growing in the country.
We work our fannies off at Rhinegeist, and we certainly smile while we sweat.
When I started the job, I felt my two biggest assets were my excitement about the beer world and my track record of hard work.
I planned to put my head down and keep my nose as close to the grindstone as possible.
The words of hustle and grit swirled around my mind like the siren song of startup success, but I quickly hit a wall.
There weren’t tangible goals or grades in the beer world. My normal school-taught pattern of "study, absorb and test" became less relevant than I could’ve expected.
Through Rhinegeist’s transformation from 15 employees when I interviewed to the current 120 and growing, the brewery’s needs have changed greatly.
Given that change, these are four components that have been crucial to embody throughout the process.
If your startup is growing -- or even more apparently if it’s not -- its needs will continually vary.
Much of the time, that variance is unforeseeable.
For you to be as strong of an asset as possible, you’ve got to be ready to adapt to the inherent curveballs that’ll be thrown your way.
2. A Yearning To Build
You must have the hunger to create systems to solve the problems your startup is presented with.
These systems can be anything from customer support and fielding product requests to setting up communication protocol.
The second iteration of this building is the creation of systems that can scale, or (even better) abate problems that haven’t even come your way yet.
If you’re a builder, you’ll be unbelievably valuable.
3. The Ability To Fix
Unless you were one of the first five employees, there are probably a huge amount of processes already in place that you’re abiding by or working around.
Given the growth or the change in business direction, it’s improbable that the processes that worked for the first five will work when 25 people are onboard.
If you want to be a kick ass member of your startup, you’ll recognize the processes that have broken or will break.
Then you'll try to fix them.
While pointing out problems is helpful, fixing them is pivotal.
4. Ego Suspension
It’s crucial to remind yourself that you’re not the center of the universe.
You are but a piece in the greater framework of your startup.
When a task is offloaded your way with little explanation, it’s doubtful your coworker did it with the intention of screwing up your day.
Putting your ego to the side and embracing the hectic nature of a startup will only make your days more delightful, not to mention limit stress considerably.
Try placing a sticky note on your computer, reminding you to breathe deep and slow down. It works wonders.
However, all these tips do not mean you should forgo your sense of autonomy and self-worth.
Instead, they should encourage you to better understand that what you want from your startup and what’s in your startup’s best interest may not always be aligned.
Embodying the builder’s mindset to create and fix -- coupled with a flexible disposition -- will make finding the balance between your startup’s needs easier, and will ultimately make you a valued member of the team.