5 Tools To Measure 5 Differences: Big Company Versus StartUp

Ben Martinez HR, Leadership, Organizational Development, T+D

Almost one year ago, I made a switch from big-company HR life to start-up tech company HR life. Lots of emotions and battles come with a change like this, and, in my case, it also involved moving my family about 1,300 miles from St. Louis to Salt Lake City.

In honor of Tim Sackett, I have chosen to use LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s 5 Tool Talent Model to describe my observations between big company HR and start-up tech HR. In short, Jeff Weiner’s 5 Tools for Talent are technology vision, business acumen, leadership, resourcefulness, and product sensibility. Here goes…

Technology vision

Big Company: You get the technology vision handed to you. Learn how to deal with it, hate it and be miserable, or get loud and disruptive. Each option has its own consequences.

Start-up Tech: You have to discover, create, or find the technology vision. Oh, and don’t forget to share it a lot. Things will change.

Business acumen

Big Company: The more you use business acumen (i.e., ROI, grow the top line or bottom line, etc.), the more you get your point across to people who can give you more money or advice.

Start-up Tech: Same as above. Only difference is you are more visible in a start-up environment because there is less money. I use the “turd-in-the-room” analogy. In a big company, turds can survive and hide their smell for years. In a start-up, turds have about a 90-day shelf life. Say bye to turds.


Big Company: Take the lead and you will tick people off. A few people might like you more, but just make sure the boss is happy enough to make their 4PM happy hour.

Start-up Tech: Take the lead or get passed. Everyone knows the direction and cause. Keep leading and reflecting.


Big company: Use the resources at your company. Little attention is given to outside resources or networks.

Start-up Tech: Your company is small, so your network better be big and resourceful. Your boss and peers will expect and want more out of you than you. You are paid to get $h!t done.

Product Sensibility

Big Company: Know your company’s product and how it makes money. Many HR pros at big companies do not get excited or passionate about their product, but are smart enough to learn how it pays their bills. Do you think the HR pro for P&G’s toilet paper division gets excited about toilet paper? Enough said. (PS. I do not know who the HR pro is for P&G’s toilet paper division, but I bet he/she is not jazzed about toilet paper.)

Start-up Tech: Your technology has purpose and solves major pain points—that is why you use it. You not only use it, but you promote it, defend it, and work with your product and sales team to make it better. You even ask your friends and family to demo it.

Working the HR soldier job at a big company comes with a GPS system to navigate your job, but be careful trying to deviate from the set route. Working the start-up tech life comes with no GPS navigation system, but be careful not to bound yourself with rules. I believe a company with many people can still behave like a start-up. It’s bad behaviors that turn a company into the “big- company feel.”

Big company life and start-up tech life both involve finding your own way and digging deep to learn what you enjoy most. Ultimately, ONLY you can judge what that is.