Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Dive in before you’re ready and you won’t have the tools and experiences you need to handle challenges as they arise.
Some people learn the entrepreneurial ropes through trial by fire, but there is an easier, more effective path: corporate employment. While many entrepreneurs hate the idea of working for someone else, the lessons I learned while working at Goldman Sachs provided context and clarity that have benefited me greatly on my entrepreneurial journey.
No matter how many books you read or how many conferences you attend, nothing adequately replicates the value of on-the-ground experience. During my time as an employee, I saw countless examples of what works — and what doesn’t — as my colleagues and bosses collaborated and collided. As a green recruit, I found my roles and expectations shifting constantly, but each of my experiences helped me understand how to run a business before I even knew what products or services my future company would provide.
I learned dozens of important lessons during my time at Goldman Sachs, but these four stand out to me as the foundational essentials every entrepreneur should know:
Larger organizations naturally create more social pressure. When you are surrounded by people who adhere to certain expectations, you find yourself striving to meet those expectations as well. To do that, you have to analyze how and why those standards exist. In the process, you learn about the norms of the business world. That way, when you’re going it on your own, you’ll have an understanding of what you, your clients, and your employees can and should expect from one another.
Working for a corporation helped me learn how to follow processes and programs before I set out to develop my own. So many entrepreneurs attempt to reinvent the wheel because they believe they must do everything differently to succeed. That’s not the case. The fact of the matter is that best practices are “best” for a reason, and there is a value in finding ways to innovate within — not outside of — the framework of tried-and-true methodologies. When you learn how to operate according to those tested and established models, you learn to see the value in the existing processes.
Corporate discipline helped me understand why certain standards maintain their value for so long. I iterated on those processes after I left, but I rarely felt the need to replace them entirely.
For example, Goldman Sachs uses a highly structured review system. Most startups neglect the importance of feedback, but I had learned that soliciting input from employees is the best way to stay ahead of the market. Today, my company hosts anonymous 360-degree feedback sessions twice a year, and I use them to guide the direction of our growth.
Investment banking earned its reputation as a meat grinder the honest way. During my time at Goldman Sachs, we worked 100 hours a week, and if we got to leave before 10 p.m. on a Friday, we considered that a win.
When you join an environment with high expectations, you must push yourself to find out how resilient you can be. It’s a grueling test, but as you dig deeper, you learn that you can do more than you ever thought possible. Just as people push themselves in competitive sports and marathons, tough corporate life forces you to challenge your mental, emotional, and physical limits. By learning that lesson when you’re young, you can remain confident in tough times that you will make it to the other side. Read more here…