Lessons Companies Can Learn From Start-Ups

Having an entrepreneurial spirit can help companies not only keep their employees happy, but choose the right employees in the first place.


In this tight job market, the pressure is on for companies across industries to compete for the best talent. From changing company culture to improving benefits and compensation, companies are doing everything they can to attract and retain talent. But if your company is ignoring this fierce competitor, your efforts could be for naught.

“In order for executives to really stay ahead, and not crash and burn, lose money, lose time, they need to be in-tune with the start-up movement, with the entrepreneurial renaissance, as I call it,” says 2020 Startup Managing Director Mark Gold.

Gold says he sees organizations lose money on training and on-boarding new employees, who then leave in 14 to 16 months. “They've got the training, they've got the company name under their belt, on their LinkedIn accounts. They've made their connections in their network, and now they're gone.”

The interesting thing about losing talent to a start-up, is that they are rarely offering the security, pay or name brand that your company can. What they do offer, however, is what the millennial generation wants most: experience.

 “I think the biggest hurdle is retaining talent. That's really the bottom line. And money doesn't motivate anymore. And I think that's a culture shock,” Gold says.

What executives should be focused on now, says Gold, is having an executive mindset with an entrepreneurial spirit. The executive mindset provides the structure, the know-how, and the knowledge, while the entrepreneurial spirit provides the reward fulfillment, and brings innovation and collaboration into your projects.

2020 Startups NYC Tech Summit

Having an entrepreneurial spirit can help companies not only keep their employees happy, but choose the right employees in the first place. At a recent 2020 Startups Tech Summit event, Alex Samuel, Senior Creative Technologist at Google, explained, “You need to hire people with a growth mindset. Someone who, five years from now, if your company is different or if you need them to fill a different role, they’ll be able to grow into that and you’re not going to have to re-hire a new person and figure out how to replace them.”

Michelle Matheus, Social Media Manager at Nasdaq agreed. “What you want to have at the company are people that are going to grow along with you but also be as experimental with you as possible, that are going to understand the ups and downs, that are not going to be afraid to make mistakes but also learn from those mistakes so that they can further their objectives.”

Once companies find the talent they need, having an entrepreneurial approach to corporate culture is key if they want to compete with the start-ups that can be so attractive to millennials. Daniel Gerschel, VP of Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch, admits that the financial services industry has a long way to go when it comes to culture. “They spend time and effort, there are mission statements, but I think our culture doesn't really exist. I think it’s something that we do very, very poorly.”

Mark Gold says companies need to start looking at people as more than just “task robots” and incorporate a culture that rewards them for innovating and thinking creatively.

Shay Shafranek, Senior Director of Product at Fiverr shared, “People don't want to work and feel like they're just a part of this mechanism.”

Flexibility is another way companies can embrace an entrepreneurial mindset. “At Google, we’re required to do twenty percent projects,” shared Samuel. “Which means we can spend twenty percent of our time on a project that is not our core role and I think that’s really important to keeping your love of your job fresh or switching to a new job that you find within the company that you’re more passionate about.”

Now is the time to focus on how your company thinks about hiring and retaining talent. If you ignore the attractiveness of start-ups, you’ll almost certainly lose (or never even win) some of your best people.