I am a Filipino startup owner. I began my professional career going up the human resources ladder. I eventually got really tired of this climb and felt the corporate structure stifled me from fully spreading my wings (more on this later), so I took the most significant leap of my professional life. In 2006, I started the HR Technology firm STORM Consulting. After nearly 6 years, through all the ups and downs startups go through, I am pleased to see our firm alive and kicking, impacting employee lives for the better through the provision of HR technology.
Over these years, I have played every role that our startup has needed me to take on: CEO, sales, investor, evangelist, janitorial services, messenger, technical support, you name it, I’ve done it.
There is one key role that I’ve made sure to always be closely involved in: recruitment.
The very minute we needed to recruit our first employee, I felt how different it was from all my years of recruiting for corporations - the margin for error was much, much smaller, and my expectations for the applicant were much,much higher. It was my money, time, and passion that were at stake, after all.
For all our openings, I’ve always sought out this one truly elusive quality that I felt was so needed in a startup like ours – “entrepreneurial.” This was much more difficult than I thought it would be.
Eventually, I began the process of seeking out partners for new firms I wanted to try out. This made the process even more acute – I now was looking for potential co-owners and partners. Not only did I need people I could trust, but people with grand dreams and the great will to make them happen.
Now, I remember feeling quite excited when I chanced upon Evelyn’s resume. After all, in college she was the president of her school’s entrepreneurial organization. Moreover, she was one of the winners of that young entrepreneurial contest HSBC sponsors. Where was she working? 3 years now for an insurance firm. I was betting there was an itch there she wasn’t exactly scratching.
When we met for coffee, I found that she was all that her impressive resume suggested: a great people person, innovative, self-starter, and yes, entrepreneurial. And yes, it turns out there was an itch she wasn’t scratching. So I went for the kill and presented my offer: 1-year apprenticeship in STORM to learn the startup ropes, then a chance co-own a firm after. I offered a good package, great challenges, potential equity, and mentorship.
The answer was something I’ve been hearing the last five years across hundreds of people.
Writing this is borne out of much more than frustration, it is borne out of concern. Concern for all those startups which never happened. Concern for all the soul-sucking that happens when brilliant people do years of sludgework. Concern for people like Mao, an eloquent applicant I chatted with yesterday whose answer to my question “describe your typical day,” was an unbelievable “I copy-paste all day.”
Concern for the thousands of not-yets developing into nevers.
I’ve interviewed thousands of people for nearly 15 years now, if you include my time in corporate HR. One generic question I always ask is the “long term plan” question.
Far and away, the two most common answers to the question are a) an MBA, and b) to put up my own business.
Fast forward 15 years after and I see a number of MBA’s around, but where are the new businesses? There should be hundreds of them.
What the hell has happened to all those dreams?
This is a plea for you, the dreamer, the would-be entrepreneur, the future tycoon momentarily biding her time in her corporate cubicle, waiting for just the right circumstances, for the stars to align in just the right way, till she makes that leap.
Take that leap now. The stars will never align. There will be no perfect time. Take that leap now. Our country needs you. Enough excuses. Enough fear.
Take that leap now.