The difference between a start-up and the corporate world

My name is Sampo Saarenpää and I joined the ranks of 3XO in the beginning of June. It’s been an inspirational and active month so far and nothing less is to be expected from the following months. I wanted to write about the differences between a young company and the corporate world where most of my experience stems from. 


Who am I?

M.Sc. Industrial Engineering and Management

Experience in sales, management consulting and the insurance industry

Passionate about customer experience, digitalization and analytics

Enjoys orienteering, floorball, NFL, good food, drink and company


When you start at a new workplace there is a ton of things to get to know and get used to. The first things that hit you are the new “office rules” or the lack of any. In our case there are some, like no shoes in the office and no dress code. Official or unofficial the rules may be they do still exist. Usually rules encourage and guide different kinds of people to adapt and work more efficiently in the same environment. Most of the time the rules work as intended but sometimes they cause unwanted results. E.g. unnatural and cumbersome reporting practices. The interesting threshold is which rules you need in order to function and which are the unwanted extra.

Another quirk of a smaller office, compared to a finely tuned corporate location, is when you have a small problem like running out of milk. You don’t send email to office management but fix it yourself. This adds up to things happening faster and more reliably, but it uses a part of your valuable time. So both ways of doing things have their positives and negatives.

Having gathered my work experience by navigating the corporate world, there are many differences compared to the current situation. The main ones from my perspective are found in organizing and evaluating your own work. Because everything you do has an effect on the company’s goals and the goals we’ve set for ourselves, you feel and are personally responsible for every aspect of your work. Also when you set your own goals, you automatically feel that they are yours and it is your responsibility to achieve them.

Ownership of your own and the company’s objectives translates into more efficient planning of your work but also allows to take into account the possible curveball or two. Inevitably your plans don’t always follow through and the tasks keep on piling, so there’s a dire need for efficient prioritization of your time. What is the most important task to get done now? Of course in consulting the client comes first and their needs surpass others’. What comes after the client? That’s often the hard part. Open communication and understanding of the company’s objectives translates into prioritization proficiency across the organization. Also the ability to prioritize your own work comes as second nature.

The subtle differences between a corporation and a start-up jump at you from time to time. Naturally more frequently in the beginning and less later on. For example, a few days before I started I fetched my laptop from the office the idea being that I could install all the needed software and configure the thing to my preferences before my first day (IT department, what’s that?). Well, I noticed the laptop had Windows 7 installed on it. I’m used to using windows 10 at home and wanted to update. So I asked Miikka who was sitting next to me had he updated his laptop. He confirmed so the next question that popped into my mind was what’s the group IT policy on that? Thankfully I thought for a second before blurting that one out. Learning is an ongoing process.

At the end of the day I feel very at home at 3XO and enjoy building a future for the company every day. This is largely thanks to the amazing colleagues I get to collaborate with daily plus the inspirational culture and surroundings we have at the office.

Game on!