Lessons from Startups

April 15, 2014 | Admin

Last updated on June 14th, 2016

lessons from startupsWhether you’re a part of a Fortune 500 or a one-man-shop, every business wants to grow and be more effective and efficient. As a part of the Atlanta Tech Village, I get to watch and learn from hundreds (literally hundreds) of startups. From their agility to their passion, it is amazing what you can learn from simply watching startups.

The beauty of learning lessons from startups is that they are not only useful in the workplace, but can benefit your personal life. Many of these lessons are ones that will enrich your life if you practice intentionally.

Here are the top 7 Lessons from a Startup I think every company (and person) should practice:

Love what you do.

This was written on a window in our office a few months ago. I’m sure you can agree that you have not always loved what you do. We have good days and bad days, but unfortunately, many get caught up in the idea that what we do should make us happy, or we will only love what we do if it is fun.

But loving what you do is a choice. Startups face a lot of struggle and uphill battles, and while it is not every case, many choose to love what they do despite the difficulties along the journey. They see growth in hardship and make a conscious effort to take pride in and love what they do.

Be agile.

Dare I say more? This is non-negotiable in a startup. Large, more established companies seldom need to be as agile as a startup because they often set the pace. While this may seem alluring, it is not always a benefit. When dozens are involved in a single decision, the process gets bottlenecked and opportunities are often missed.


Startups however are nimble and agile. They see an opportunity and can pursue it wholeheartedly. They realize a campaign is not as effective as expected, so they drop it and move onto the next new thing. They see opportunity in roadblocks and are able to scale and change to meet the needs of the market in a more timely matter.

The ability to change and pick yourself back up is a character trait often at the core of success.

Be efficient.

Startups do not have unlimited resources. In fact it is more likely they are counting pennies then letting them slip through the cracks. While having bountiful resources is a luxury we all would prefer, there is something important to note about being efficient.

Money, time, resources…all are areas where startups set a high bar for efficiency. Every piece of equipment is vital to their growth so getting the most from your software and systems is a necessity.

Don’t use resources just because you have them at your discretion. Be sure you are getting the most from your work, time and money. If a vendor is not delivering, don’t waste any more time with them – move on. If one of your departments continues to spend without results, dig into the problem and see where you can tighten up or redirect energy. If you are running out of time in your day, figure out how you will prioritize. If you don’t complete everything on your infinite to-do list – its OK! Regroup and re-prioritize your ‘tomorrow list’ before bed. Then when you wake up you will have set goals to achieve for the day.  


Bringing together resources is something startups are masters at. They have no time to keep everything separated. Something they do very well is integrate themselves into their community. They are typically very active members of their community and because their network is large, they are masters at connecting people.

Integration is also a key aspect in their business plan. Startups rely heavily on their software so having them integrate is a key strategy as they grow and develop. They need to get the most from every tool they use and can’t afford to have bad data. Startups also cannot afford to create their own or pay for expensive integrations.

Be Mobile.

Most of us excel in this arena if we are talking solely about our mobile devices. We are reachable from anywhere at anytime (whether that is good or bad!). But startups are mobile in a different way. Their business is often not dependent on location but on attention. People working in large companies are able to slip out, take vacation or defer duty because there is always someone who can cover for them.

Startups often are a one, two or three man shop without a physical location. So having mobile access to their data, software and apps is imperative for their success. They always have the latest and greatest apps right on their mobile device. They know what they need to work efficiently and from anywhere.

Check out the 13 Best Mobile Apps for Small Businesses here!

Seek advice.

I honestly don’t feel there is enough time in the day to break this one down the way it deserves. This is HUGE for your business and your life. Companies and people stop growing when they stop learning. Too often great success leads to arrogance. You will miss opportunity, relationships and growth without seeking opinion and advice from peers and mentors.

I watch as entrepreneurs pursue advice constantly. Some may see it as over-zealous but the truth is that with every meeting, entrepreneurs are growing their knowledge and network into something powerfully tangible. They are not complacent in their role, but desire to find ways to implement the advice they receive.

Be fearless.

I heard once that we are often are more fearful of success than we are of failing. In a recent article, Director of DARPA, Dr. Regina Dugan, argued that “you can’t lose your nerve for the big failure, because the nerve you need for the big success is the exact same nerve.”

He is right. We sabotage ourselves when we stay in the ‘safe zone’. We get comfortable with where we are at don’t we?

I’m in the middle of reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. It is a fantastic book and in it she points out that often people shy away from leadership positions or bigger opportunities – even if it is exactly what they say they want. Why is this? Fear. We are afraid of what we don’t know, afraid we will fail, afraid we will let someone (or ourselves) down – so we don’t try. This is a lesson from startups that could be more powerful than all the rest.

Startups and those within do not let fear prevent them from pursuing their goals. They know there is statistically a large chance (90%) they will fail. But they sprint onward anyway. This may seem like insanity but it is admirable, if not even awe-worthy. They overcome both the fear of failure and the fear of success simultaneously which requires a well balanced mix of humility, confidence and courage.

No matter what business or stage in life you find yourself, startups are a fantastic case study in achieving success well. Even if they fail, entrepreneurs are quick to get back up off the ground and look for something new. They are nimble, agile and scrappy which enables them to get the most from their resources and pursue opportunities many of us may have overlooked.

What lessons have you learned from a startup?