My first 50 days at a corporate startup

Milena Grul (CMO), juli 2018


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  • Group 5 valuable insights, learning by doing

5 valuable insights that are worth sharing

As some of you already know, I recently starting working at Shell TapUp, a corporate start-up that is creating a flexible infrastructure for the delivery of alternative fuels like HVO. So here I am, 50 days later, still alive and kicking. Ready to share my 5 biggest learnings so far with the rest of the world. Here goes:

#1: It always pays off to get to know your customers and the friction you are solving for them

Ok, for any self-respecting marketeer of the 21st century, this will come as no surprise. You get to know your customer, your service and the product-market fit. However, do not sit around at your desk reading the powerpoint booklets that your predecessor has made. I mean you really need to get out of the door and join your Service Champions. Find out what they are doing and find out why your customers love it so much. I spent several shifts in our operation, actually fueling and servicing our customers. These were probably the best spent hours of my first 50 days so far. Understanding what unique benefit we bring, is what is going to make us grow.

#2: If you don’t see it, it’s because it’s not there

Coming from some high profile corporates, I was used to having some marketing basics into place. Things such as the website, branding guidelines, collaboration tools or just your ever so basic cabinet where you can store marketing materials. Even though this is a corporate start-up, in this case it’s what you see is what you get. Is there a place to store materials? No. Is there a website with CMS so that I can easily make adjustments to the website? No. Do we have a set of growth KPI’s in place yet? No. Do we want all these things? Yes. Who needs to fix it? You do! Bottom line is, that at a start-up, you need to be willing to do all these things yourself. The really good news about that is, you get the opportunity to completely put your own vision into it.


If you don't see it, it's because it's not there Milena Grul - Chief Marketing Officer

#3: You are the job, and the job is bigger than you

Working for a start-up means, that you truly need to be personally invested in the problem the company is trying to solve. It is not just a job at a large company where you might be fulfilling an interesting role for a few years. Or a cool resume builder before you head of to your next adventure. No, the job is bigger than you and you are the job. Today, I was having a conversation with a television producer. At the end, he thanked me for my great energy and enthusiasm for what we are doing. Just then it hit me: I would not be able to do this job properly, if I wasn’t personally invested in this. It is a sense of emotional ownership that is rare to have. But if it’s there, it’s awesome.

#4: The first thing you need to admit, is that you don’t know

(thank you NEWCRAFT GROUP)

I have repeated this phrase probably about 100 times over the past 50 days. So that either means I was taught well by my previous employer, or it holds a truth for our start-up. Probably both are true. In a start-up, one of the most challenging things is to quantify everything you do. It’s hard to start measuring for the first time. But we need to get it into our DNA, to always validate what we think we know about the market, the customer, the journey and the behavior. Only by validating every single hypothesis in a data-driven way, I will be able to create the growth engine we need to scale this venture.

#5: If you need help, ask Neil

Who’s Neil? #askneil is a Slack channel within the Aimforthemoon community. Since I am also connected to the entrepreneurs over there, we form a virtual peergroup and we help each other out whenever we can. Having a great and relevant network to collaborate with, is truly a wonderful thing. We’re a start-up, so we are running into problems that most other start-ups have run into before. By taking advantage of this combined learning curve, we can take hurdles much easier and grow much faster. For now, my communication with my peers is mainly through Slack. But I will soon also join the physical world of networking. If you have any tips on what peergroups, Linkedin groups, meetups or conferences I should attend, please let me know!

To sum up, I have had a really great first 50 days and have learned a lot. I hope these insights have helped you out as well! Interested in reading more about our venture? Our #2 episode will come from Merel Vis, our Customer Experience Manager. Stay tuned by following us!

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