6.17.19 - Leonardia Hardy Weighing Risk and Reward: The Answer is in the Pivot

Everyone tells you that entering the world of startups is risky. The stats can be daunting, with 9 out of 10 startups failing[1]. The key is to pick the right one, focus your positive energy into knowing you can contribute to the 10 percent that don’t fail. Plus, if you choose a company you believe in with a mission that truly matters, it’s such an easy decision. For me, it was a risk worth taking, and one that has truly paid off.

If you had told me five years ago that I would be working for a startup, I would have had a nice laugh. To be honest, at the time I wasn’t certain what a startup was, and that type of work was never part of my master plan.

However, life happens, and many things changed. In February of 2018, my life was altered forever when I lost my dad. It was an emotionally devastating blow to enter a hospital as a family of four and leave as a family of three.

Losing someone so integral to my life forced me to look at myself and ask, “what do I really want?” Until then, I had happily placed many things on hold so that I could stay near my dad and always be available when he needed me. Now that he was gone, I was left with the, “now what?”

My plan to attend grad school was on the back burner to be around for him, and I don’t regret that decision. School was back on the table, and I went into the application process head first. Eventually, responses began rolling in — no thank you, but please try again next year. In the end, I knew I tried.

Now was my chance to pivot. This prompted a search for different career opportunities outside of music, which was my original focus. I applied to a startup that was based an hour and a half from where I lived.

I received an invitation for a face-to-face interview and was surprised at how ecstatic I was. This was where I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be a part of what was being created. I still remember the day I received the call telling me they were offering me the position. I haven’t stopped smiling.

Those next two weeks were a blur, and there definitely had to be a shift in mindset with going from a traditional corporate culture to the start-up culture. During my first few weeks, I was asking permission to do anything and everything (which, advice, if you like to be told what to do a startup may not be for you). I didn’t have much confidence in myself or my abilities. Time and time again the CEO, president, and my manager would tell me they brought me on because they believed in me. I just had to find that belief in myself. One-on-one meetings with my manager and our president eventually helped my confidence start to grow. In these sessions we would go over my tasks, what I had done well and what I could improve upon. I realized how much they wanted to see me grow into my full potential. I realized quickly this wasn’t the mark of a good startup culture, it was the mark of a great one. One year in and I’m still growing. I speak with confidence. They still believe in me — and now, I believe in myself. I continue to have opportunities provided to me that allow growth in confidence.

If you’re on the verge of taking the plunge into the world of a startup, I urge you to choose a company you believe in, be adaptable to change, have the ability to pivot when needed, and have faith in your own leadership. I promise if you can do those things, you will find success no matter what.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/#9cba48166792