Your company isn’t a startup, stop calling it that.

A stop sign

A few months ago I went to an interview, I admit that I didn’t do my homework and didn’t do enough research on the company before going for the interview, it was a referral from a friend and there was no official job offer, so it was more laid back than usual.

After telling the CEO about my experience and goals, and after he told me about the company, the products, and the teams, the salary question comes up. I gave a perfectly normal expectation which was just slightly above the local glassdoor average for the role I would fill. He then asks me: “Did you get that kind of salary at your previous company? We are a startup”.

I thought about this for a second, but it made no sense, the company was 10 years old, and hit a plateau in revenue about 8 years ago, the turnover rate for employees is around 9 months, and the ones that stay have very little motivation to continue and do very half-assed work, further hindering the potential of the company.


Wait a minute, this is no startup!

Calling your company a startup when it’s 10 years old to justify lower salaries is like calling yourself a teenager when you’re 45 to justify living with your parents.

And while we’re at it:

Going to Websummit with a 10 year old company as an exhibitor, competing with 6 month old companies is like playing in the sand with the kids as an adult, more is expected of you. Whether you call it “Networking” or not.

A 10 year old company should be more mature in salaries and in revenues, if you are at a plateau for a long time, there is something wrong that needs to be found and taken care of. Either a process is failing, or it’s time for a pivot. If you don’t find and fix this, somebody else will.

How can an established company behave “startup” like?

The specifics depend greatly from company to company, generally it requires a mindset change from upper management, and the rest flows quite naturally.(or goes horribly wrong if not done correctly)

Employees leave because they were never listened to, who you hire makes a huge difference, and in my experience, very few companies know how to hire.

You must create a safe space for your employees, let them make small calculated mistakes, the ideas that work out will cover the potential cost of the mistakes 10 fold, let them help you steer the boat.

Part of your job as a CEO is to empower your managers to empower their teams, if you are doing something else(like standing over everyone’s shoulder all the time), you’re doing it wrong.

Your employees can either work with you or for you, the latter makes you the bottleneck and you personally stand in the way of growth.

Since this is such a specific topic, it requires understanding your specific problems and team dynamics.


If your company is 5+ years old and you still call it a startup, you are trying to hide a large issue.

We need to find what’s wrong so you can grow your revenue and achieve the goals you deserve.

Strong opinions, loosely held.

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