Making the leap from the corporate world to a startup (an employee’s point of view)

By Jacel Egan

There was once a time – not too long ago – when I felt like living proof that the movie Office Space was actually a documentary. I felt confined within the walls of my cubicle, stuck in an endless cycle of routine day-in and day-out.

I needed a change, and I found one at a young, rapidly growing tech company near Nashville, Tenn.

In less than two months at TechnologyAdvice, the move from a larger corporate setting to a smaller startup environment has changed my entire idea of how a company can grow and become successful.

“If you’re going to grow both personally and professionally, you always have to be moving and trying new things,” says Rob Bellenfant, TechnologyAdvice founder and CEO. “Our mindset is one that doesn’t fear failure. We fear complacency.  I always encourage our new hires to go out and make a lot of mistakes because experience is the best way to learn and grow – provided you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.”

That mindset from leadership is one of the major differences I have noticed during my transition from a larger corporate environment to a smaller entrepreneurial one. Here are a few others:


The culture of a small business functions more organically than a large corporation, where there are hard guidelines and strict rules about procedure. My idea of corporate America as one, long Dilbert comic has now been replaced by a more vibrant picture — eager, motivated individuals ready to accomplish big goals each day, the buzz of productive team meetings, and open office spaces that promote collaboration. That’s not to say there wasn’t a big learning curve; my areas of focus in media relations involve business intelligence, project management, and CRM – all terms I recognized by knew little about. At startups, diving in headfirst to new challenges and mastering new things quickly are not just highlighted, but expected.


My previous experience taught me to follow precise timelines: press releases were always written and distributed a certain number of weeks before a product was released, follow-ups with media contacts were done exactly five days before a product was officially unveiled, and so on. At TechnologyAdvice, I’ve found less red tape, allowing more room to try creative, new ideas. Everyone moves at a fast, dynamic pace and does whatever it takes to succeed. Thinking outside of the box is essential. This is one of a startup’s defining and most appealing characteristics, according to David Politis of the Young Entrepreneur Council.

“People are drawn to startups because of their lack of bureaucracy… which allows members of the team to accomplish much more in a shorter timeframe,” he wrote in a recent Forbes piece.

Measure Progress

To ensure each team member is held accountable, we keep track of almost everything we do. I quickly noticed how much we tracked our progress through various project management tools, including LeanKit, SuccessFactors, and online spreadsheets, which keep us connected and focused. These tools keep me engaged and on task while providing a strong sense of ownership over my work. Previously, it was easy for details to fall through the cracks about why, or why not, certain goals were met.

Overall, the change in culture, pace, and project management has been a breath of fresh air. Have you experienced the change from the corporate world to working at a small business, or vice-versa? What were the biggest differences that you observed? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Jacel Egan is a media relations coordinator at TechnologyAdvice, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that researches and analyzes a variety of business technology options. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.