Join a Startup and Change Your Life

Gary C. Bizzo  |

iStockphoto, DisobeyArt

As a Professor at the New York Institute of Technology (Vancouver Campus), it's critical for me to speak individually to my students as often as possible. I ask them why they are attending an MBA Graduate school and ask about their future plans. It's more than curiosity because often I can find great spots for them in my friends' companies and, as a networker, I always run across opportunities.

After most classes I get the usual one semester-to-go-grads who feel desperate because they are not getting the traction or interest they need in their career search. Many of my students are from India, so they have a couple or more issues facing them. They are usually on student visas and, while they can get a full time job upon graduation, they may or may not be allowed to stay past their visa term. They may not get permanent citizenship status that would enable them to get a great job.

They are keen to work, however, and well qualified, and certainly would be a good addition to any multinational corporation. Still, they find it difficult, if not impossible to find a position. When I first found out they were international students I thought they might be helicopter kids, funded by rich parents in a far off place with trust funds keeping them in school with luxury apartments and cars as perks.

As it turns out, this is far from the case. Nine out of ten are working in jobs at places like Walmart, Subway or Starbucks. They work hard and quickly rise to managers while attending school full time. They know the value of hard work and are seen by employers as "keepers." Unfortunately, while the students put their best into the after-school jobs, they are simply doing a duty they feel they must accomplish. They share apartments, are into their early twenties so they have found some sense of responsibility and a work ethic placed in their psyche by middle class parents who wanted them to have a better life in Canada.

They come to me to help them find a cubicle in a big Canadian corporation. No way, I tell them!

Do they really want to join the unholy masses stuck in a job for years, with their own windowless cubicle, in a dead-end position, paying slightly above average wages, managed by miserable managers who reached the Peter Principle because the corporation intends to draw every bit of energy from their young minds? Of course they want that job, because they think that is success, but I try to show them a different option.

When asked, I tell them I will introduce them to startup founders. I refuse to send to them to my friends in high places in the big corporations because I want them to go through their youth without the stress brought on by corporate greed and employee abuse.

Why on earth would I foist them upon meager startups with salaries slightly more than they were making at their after school jobs? For that matter, why do I constantly find myself surrounded by startups?

It's the excitement! I'm starting another company at the moment and I was thinking about the spots I needed filled. Seems to me if I hire one of my graduate students I can get a marketer, publicist, gopher, salesman, driver, graphic designer, brainstormer and assistant for one decent salary. Abuse? I prefer to think of it as opportunity! Also, there's no bait and switch. I make sure they all understand what the job will entail and what I hope they'll get out of it.

They will learn the business from the ground up. As the CEO learns to pivot his business, these employees will learn to go with the flow learning from every move and tweak in the operation. They will find that their opinion counts, that small suggestions turn into implemented programs and small changes can make big results in the right circumstances.

They have found that innovation is king, hard work is rewarded with options in the company and no one gets fired as long as the job is being done. They just get more job descriptions added to the imaginary one they have at the moment.

Instead of getting a list of things to do every day at Big Corp. without any sense of how their contributions are meaningful, in a startup they learn about the big picture goals and what needs to be done every day, and those adept will find that their skills are unleashed to the betterment of the startup. Their innovation does not go unnoticed because of the camaraderie present in the startup. A well-oiled team sees where work is needed and supports the end result. They are all close because it's like living in a life boat at sea, everyone has to pull on the oars together to get to safe waters.

Creativity is supported, expected and welcomed. Startups need every bit of help they can get, so all advice, whether it comes from the guy cleaning the office or the marketing/designer guy, is considered.

I've seen kids out of university starting work as an assistant to a founder and soon finding themselves running the marketing department. The only skills are theory from school and a whole lot of hands on experience stuffed in a short growth cycle. Being part of the growth cycle in a startup can be rewarding and exciting. If they are among the lucky few, their hard work will result in huge accomplishments and rewards.

As an entrepreneur I've seen and appreciated the roles we undertake to make the business successful. I've been the CEO and HR Director during the day, but also cleaned the toilet and made coffee at all hours for the employees. I've seen young upstarts take on roles well above their pay grade but do them above and beyond expectations. Try doing that at a large corporation.

Oh, and one of my favorite perks of working for a startup? The lack of politics in the office is wonderful. The startup is a team, its founders have worked alongside everyone and there's no room for office politics. The atmosphere in such a place is unbelievable because everyone is there to support each other. They are so glad just to be there, so they don't think about maneuvering to get ahead or making someone else look bad.

The funny thing I have noticed is that when people move from a startup into the big corporation down the road they have no idea what office politics are all about. It is so refreshing to see.

Imagine waking up to a new day and rushing out the door to go to work because you love it. Remember those days? Women might put on some makeup or not, men may shave or not and the dress code is casual. The founder is your age and he doesn't care as long as you care about your job.

You are not just a cog in a giant wheel any longer, and people care about you as a person, not merely a number. You have a whole new sense of meaning to your life, and when you get your paycheck you lift your eyes to heaven and thank whoever it is who saw fit to give you money for enjoying what you do every day.

Wow, it's so exciting to think back to those days. It's empowering to a Founder that one can affect young minds that easily. It's also mind blowing to realize their life is in your hands to be nurtured and fostered to bring the best from them so that when they move on they have something bigger than themselves to give to the next employer.

Being a startup founder is so cool!

Bizzo is CEO of Syphon Nanotech Inc., Bizzo Management Group Inc., and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Communications as well as Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus).

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Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo

Source: Equities News

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer.

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