Startups and corporations are two completely different worlds. They differ in their working practices and in the requirements that employees have to meet: in corporations, the ability to adapt to the strict organization of work is much appreciated, whereas in startups, initiative, independence and being proactive are most valued. To highlight this difference we present twelve phrases that will make you a star in a corporation, but which you should never say in a startup:


1. I wasn’t trained for this


If you are asked whether you have done something before and answer like this, in a corporation they will consider you as a person who improves the company. A number of decision-makers’ meetings are organised to amend the company’s procedures in order to make sure that no employee is ever undertrained. Well, in a startup such a remark will be your first failure. The inability to look for information on your own and learn independently, not only at work, will make you one of those unproductive people who look for a justification for not doing their job.


2. It was always like that


‘Always’ doesn’t mean ‘good’. Maybe you are aware that in most corporations only those who follow the outworn procedures reach the top of the corporate ladder. The current order of things is almost unchangeable (without any clear reason). Forget about it, because in startups the reality is entirely different. Your ideas really matter and you can make an impact, so seize this opportunity. In startups feedback is not only welcome but expected, for who knows better how to improve a company than its employees?


3. That is not within my competence


An approach that is widely accepted in corporations, but means that a person is not open to new challenges and doesn’t want to develop new skills. Working in a startup requires a lot of versatility. There are no overly precise positions such as Sticky Notes Supply Specialist. An extensive knowledge of many areas of expertise, willingness to gain new experience outside from the actual area of specialization, and – even more important – taking responsibility and not passing the buck.


4. My training didn’t cover this task


In corporations, the onboarding lasts weeks and prepares you for absolutely every kind of situation you might encounter. On the other hand, in startups the training aims to introduce you to your new responsibilities as soon as possible. The company assumes that you’re smart and are able to cope with your tasks from the very first day. Independence is a must, and if you work your way through your tasks on your own, then you’ll develop your skills much quicker than in a corporation.


5. This is beyond my responsibility


Corporate employees are expected to rigidly adhere to fixed arrangements, such as the scope of responsibilities. But in a startup flexibility is key. Your tasks will be varied, but therefore more interesting. The task will not always be communicated to you beforehand. Every day may be a new adventure, so say goodbye to corporate monotony.


6. I’m off now, I’ll get back to you


With this remark you’ll fit perfectly into the corporate tendency of exchanging endless back-and-forth emails, but in a startup you might step on your co-workers’ and clients’ toes if you cause any delay in an urgent project. There is no place for playing cat and mouse, quick actions and resolving the case immediately are what really matters.


7. We couldn’t do that because of the holidays


In corporate-speak this may be called ‘task prioritization’, but it leads to a constant postponement of some issues, and moreover shows a lack of respect to the other party. Put yourself in this person’s position: surely you wouldn’t be happy if your urgent problem was marginalized because someone went on holiday?


8. I’m almost done for the day, we’ll do it tomorrow


When someone in a corporation says this three hours before clocking off, everyone else responds with a choir of affirmative murmuring. But in startups we make use of the time we have to finish what we are currently working on. It’s not about having to constantly work after hours, but when there is work to do, we just finish it without putting it off to the next day. A startup is normally a workplace with flexible working hours, so it’s easier to adapt the schedules to a specific project.


9. I can’t do that because it wasn’t reported according to procedure


Procedures are sacred in every corporation . You’ll be a hero if you stick to them at all costs. In startups, they see procedures differently, as a way to improve some processes but not to create obstacles. Of course, procedures are important. But don’t fool yourself: if the procedures become an excuse for not resolving a problem, then they’re not working properly.


10. I understand it’s urgent, but it has to be done according to procedure – it will be ready ASAP in two months


This is another sentiment typical in a corporate job, where procedures are more important than actually resolving a case. This attitude is unacceptable in a startup, because it shows an utter lack of understanding of how these organisations operate. In a startup the attitude is more: “The impossible we do immediately, miracles take a little longer”. And in a startup you’ll learn what ‘ASAP’ really means!


11. Get my boss’s approval if you want me to do this


In a corporation you can go far by acting in accordance with the usual stiff guidelines, but in a startup there is no place for delays caused by waiting for official instructions. The workflow is much more fluent, and therefore effective, because work gets started straight away without much fuss. You’ll understand the difference between these two working styles, in favour of the startup’s, when you see how much better you can work without formal obstacles.


12. I’ve just finished a personal development course, can I get a raise?


Of course you can get a raise! But as a reward for your engagement and for bringing real value to the company. Show which problems you have resolved and your contribution to the company’s success. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed and you’ll get the reward you deserve. In startups it’s your real accomplishments that make you Employee of the Month.


Have you read it all, thought it through and felt encouraged? Do you see startups as an opportunity to develop your career in an environment that will give you more independence and the possibility to make an impact? Great, then a bright startup future and lifetime adventure awaits you! Just don’t forget what you learnt from our startup survival guide, and remember to face new challenges bravely!