I’ve been with Thnks - a fast-growing tech startup dedicated to growing businesses through gratitude - for six years, which is practically a lifetime in startup culture.
As the company’s first hire, I had the chance to witness the early triumphs and work through all the growing pains that go along with building a business from the ground up. The process was especially fascinating to me because of my interest and education in psychology and sociology. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in both, and always hoped I’d find a job continuing my study of human behavior and relationships.
That’s exactly what I found at Thnks - we incorporate the science of gratitude into our business model, leveraging what we know about how humans express and experience appreciation for the purposes of improving business relationships.
When I think about the past six years growing this business from the ground up, I feel incredibly thankful to be a part of a company that is focused daily on gratitude. As we’ve grown rapidly, bringing in a lot of new people to join us on our mission to grow business with gratitude, we've all learned a great deal together along the way - about business, about humanity, and about each other.
Here are three of my biggest takeaways from the years I’ve spent helping to shape a business from a small startup to a multi-million dollar company.
1. Be resourceful or be frustrated.
When Brendan and Larry (Thnks’ Co-Founder and Founder) brought me on as the company’s very first hire, my fresh-faced excitement and energy could only carry me so far. As is the nature of a fast-paced startup, we had to divide and conquer in order to get the essential items in the day done, which oftentimes meant wearing many hats. When things got busy, we all had to rise to the occasion and adapt quickly to challenges. In this environment, I carved my own path, I found my own shortcuts, I cobbled together my own solutions. This resourcefulness was a lifesaver for me, and without it, I would have been overwhelmed by frustration. There is a sink or swim nature to the early days (or years) of being in a startup. Those who have the resourcefulness to overcome it are more likely to find success in the end, those who don’t will likely fail.
2. Learn everything about everything.
Being a senior leader at a startup looks very different than being one at an established business. Especially in the early days, my work was very hands-on and “in-the-weeds.” In order to be successful, and to help make the company successful, I had to adopt a learner’s mindset and maintain that way of thinking for years. I had to learn everything about everything, when it came to the various facets of the business. In a startup environment, you have to cultivate a deep understanding and know-how for all the different areas of the company - what they do, what problems they solve, what challenges they face, and how their leaders and team members are pushing them toward greater horizons. This breadth of knowledge about my own company was an absolute requirement for my ability to think quickly and critically in key moments. I had to understand all the little nuances in order to see the big picture. Moreover, in the lifecycle of a company there comes a time when you have to find ways to export your hard earned knowledge to newer members you’ve brought on. A big part of the continued success of Thnks, and my personal career, has been the ways in which I’ve captured the knowledge and put it into formats that others in the company could use and grow with. So when I say “learn everything about everything,” that also means learn how to share your knowledge and proliferate it across your company as it grows!
3. Keep one thing consistent.
The speed and number of changes in a startup are overwhelming at times. There are moments where it feels like too much, too fast - and you’re tempted to give up entirely. My best lesson has been the realization that one thing must be kept consistent and reliable throughout the whole trajectory of business growth. One thing must stay stable and dependable, so that you always have a bedrock to return to at the end of the day. For our team at Thnks, that unchangeable bedrock was our set of values. We went into this experiment with ideas about who we were and what we valued as professionals and people, and I’m proud to say that we still have those same ideas today - except now, we hold them closer and more dear than ever. Despite all the shifting and the moments of uncertainty, we’ve been able to hold onto the consistency of our deepest beliefs about human behavior, appreciation, gratitude and what it means to be a team. This has been our lifeline, especially in the tough times.
Without a doubt, mistakes are bound to happen in any startup, pivots will need to take place and change is going to arrive swiftly and often. Yet, with a strong threshold of resourcefulness, some ingenuity, consistency and a vision for the future, you’ll be poised to stay the journey and reach success.
WRITTEN BYCandace Press