In a large corporation, each individual member is a wheel in a cog, usually with limited influence in the direction of the company. To continue this analogy, if a wheel is in motion, all the cogs will tend to move together and offer little resistance. In contrast, a startup demands that each team member needs to feel comfortable in presenting his or her opinion on the direction that the company is taking along with underlying support. One cannot just rely on conjecture or opinion but base business decisions on hard facts.
During my experience at Polariis, I found that I did not always agree with the go to market strategy of the company. After my first couple weeks where I was in charge of presenting our company to different clients, I began to realize (based on the feedback and market research) that there was not a strong reason for customers to sign up for Polariis’s services. Polariis brings together senior business professionals with aspiring young professionals. Polariis’s market was to target the top 50 MBA programs. I initially questioned this strategy because leading academic institutions would already have sufficient networking opportunities, and therefore, Polariis served no real need for these groups.
I was willing to suppress my initial skepticism and call leading business programs. I started making phone calls and had a quick “elevator pitch” to speak with school career centers on the benefits Polariis could offer their students. Candidly, most schools never bothered to return the phone call and when I spoke with those that did, they politely advised that they were not interested. It was important that I was willing to support my observations through direct research rather than just speculate.
From this one experience, I have learned three invaluable insights. First, it was important to substantiate my opinions with research because it provided objective analysis to my subjective opinions. It was very hard for others to refute my beliefs when I tested the model through feedback. Second, I learned how to advocate a position to the CEO that he did not necessarily want to hear. Last, I had a great opportunity, in a low risk environment, to explore real world market research and how to use that research to support business decisions.
Written by L.J. Maloney, BC Class of 2018