Urgent message: Over the past 15 years, the growth of urgent care in the United States has been fueled largely by independent entrepreneurs. Joining a start-up practice can provide tremendous advancement and financial opportunity, but such also comes with the uncertainty, change, and creativity of managing a fledgling new business.
Joining a start-up company can be an exciting moment in an employee’s career. While stepping onboard a business during its early stages can feel risky, the result has the potential to be both personally and professionally rewarding. The key is not only having a clear idea which young companies are worth joining, but also knowing if you are a good fit for a start-up environment.
Start-ups don’t offer the same hierarchy or structure as mature companies. However, they’re just like any other company in that they require good managers to lead and make critical decisions that grow the business. In the right environment, managers at start-ups are allowed more autonomy and creativity than in a typical corporate environment. These can be important factors in building an employee’s sense of satisfaction.
What to Expect at a Start-Up
So how do you know if you’re the right employee for a start-up? Given the unique nature of fledgling companies, employees should be prepared to deal with uncertainty, test limits, and learn to think like an owner.
Culture, systems, processes, policies, and the brand will all need to be developed and refined. In fact, the whole operating structure from technology, to employees, to vendor relationships will need to be defined and customers will have to be wooed and retained. That’s because in a start-up, everything is new.
In terms of managing uncertainty, start-ups are essentially experiments that test a hypothesis that a certain business model will work in a new setting. Titles shift, roles change on a dime, and boundaries are fluid. This type of amorphous environment can persist even into a start-up’s later stages. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since this sort of flexibility is what leads to rapid growth. However, an employee should expect the ups and downs that come with it.
Start-ups also push limits. By their very nature, new companies look to find better, more efficient ways of doing things. Employees should be skilled at questioning conventions and norms, as this is the best way to find new solutions to old problems.
For a brand-new business to succeed, its employees should be as emotionally invested as the company’s owners. There is a strong sense of mission at start-ups, compared with traditional companies. This can foster a fulfilling sense of adventure and camaraderie among employees. But it might also mean that an employee needs to step outside their normal duties at times, to the point of cleaning the break-room fridge or passing out flyers at a community event.
Finding the Right Fit
When interviewing with an urgent care start-up, it’s important to understand the founders’ motivation and vision. For example, how is their operating model different from competitors’? What communities or segments do they intend on focusing? How large do they want to grow and how quickly do they want to do it? It’s difficult to muster the energy required by a start-up if you don’t believe in what the business is trying to achieve.
Employees should also consider their own talents and at what stage to join a start-up. If you’re a problem-solver and go-getter, consider a company still in its early, nascent stages so you can make as big a difference as possible. But if you prefer a slightly more stable environment, you may look for a company with some funding and a few years of development already in place.
An established individual who requires a steady paycheck and solid benefits, for instance, would likely be a much better fit for a large health system, whereas someone who’s bored with the status quo, frustrated with bureaucracy, and energized by change would likely to well at a start-up.
Exhibit 1 lists some characteristics common to successful employees of start-ups. If all of this sounds like you, then you may be ready for the challenge of joining a start-up. If you can manage your expectations, deal with uncertainty, and find comfort in change, start-ups offer fulfillment that is tough to find at traditional companies these days. It’s a change that could offer life-changing benefits for those who fit the mold.
Exhibit 1: Characteristics of Successful Start-up Employees
|· They would much rather act than deliberate. Start-ups rarely end up following their original business plans. Rrather, they adapt and modify as they learn the business and market. Success in a changing environment, therefore, requires a strong bias toward action.
· They understand the business has finite resources. Time and effort must be focused on satisfying patients. Rather than indulge in corporate ”perks,” start-up employees must become creative in maximizing the value of every dollar spent. Fancy titles and corner offices are typically unimportant. Start-ups are ”hands-on” organizations with little heirarchy and no time for politics.
· They respect customers as the key to future success. Large organizations tend to consider patients in terms of volumes, demographics, and throughput. While those metrics are important for any urgnet care operation, the start-up can never lose sight that customers (or patients, in the case of urgent care) are individuals. They realize the start-up’s success is completely dependent on meeting those individuals’ needs better than all competing options.
· They love meritocracy, believe in themselves, and belief in others. Politics, kingdom building, and good old boy networks have no place in a start-up, where success should be dependent on each employee’s efforts, contributions, and results.
Adapted from: Shah D. 7 traits of truly sensational startup employees. Entrepreneur. Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240883. Accessed March 9, 2018.
Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Chief Executive Officer of Velocity Urgent Care, LLC and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.