Startup Schmartup

Oh, you work at a startup? OMG – that is SO HOT right now.

The mentality, structure and everyday practices that accompany a startup are refreshing. It’s an environment that is based on risk and passion. And it gives every employee the sense of ownership that drives them to do their best work.

Today we’re chatting with Brian Reilly, CPSM and Senior Technologist at Liftoff. Brian left his comfy corporate marketing job nearly five years ago to join his best friend in a startup venture – something that has turned into a rewarding career change and growth opportunity for them both. So we’re looking to find out what that startup mentality means to Brian, and how marketers can be infusing that same mindset into their already established firms.

CQ: A June 2015 Fast Co. article by Shawn Parr states “A startup mentality focuses the mind, challenges the body, and can be good for the soul.” Agree or disagree?

BR: 100% agree! I hadn’t heard that quote before, but I think I could have written it. Joining a technology startup five years ago rejuvenated me – I feel like a new person. I’m healthier, I have a happier relationship with my family, I see my kids more, and I’m doing better work – it has absolutely rejuvenated my soul.

CQ: So why do you think everyone is so in love with this startup mentality? Why is it so hot right now?

BR: Deep down, I think most people have an entrepreneurial spirit that is just waiting to be tapped. They might not know it, but once they are exposed to a smaller company, something changes within them. People are more passionate about what they’re doing, and no longer lost in a big corporate environment. It offers freedom, you just have to find the courage to unleash it.

CQ: How would you define the startup mentality?

BR: The mentality is all about doing whatever the job takes – whatever hat you have to wear – to accomplish the task. In my case, not only am I doing the marketing – I’m doing sales calls, technology training, project management, social media, public relations, and human resources – it’s everything. It takes a go-getter attitude, and doing more than just your job title.

CQ: How can someone infuse that into a corporate team?

BR: Mix up the teams, share best practices and lessons learned. I remember being in that situation in my previous job – and whenever I had the chance to interact with other team members across the firm, I was always coming up with great ideas that I could never have thought of on my own. When you knock down the silos between offices and market sectors – you can learn from everyone. Keep the communication open.

CQ: Risk is inherently associated with startups. What risks does a larger organization face with infusing this mentality?

BR: In most larger organizations, there are so many layers of approvals. And I think that marketers become scared to do anything without first seeking approval.  It can be incredibly discouraging, and poses the ultimate risk of not doing anything new. Just imagine – wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where you could just try some things out, without running it through the corporate ladder?

CQ: What can larger organizations learn from a startup, and how can marketers infuse this into their workday?

BR: Be more flexible and nimble with trying different things. Don’t be afraid to stray from the way things have always been done. Don’t pigeon hole your marketing staff on the backlines only preparing proposals. Get out there, meet people and talk to clients. Knock down the walls, and find your entrepreneurial spirit. Try out those crazy (but smart) ideas!


Listen to the Podcast

Want to hear more from Brian? Listen to the podcast to hear our full conversation including how his days in the AEC world have made him a stronger contributor in his new role.

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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Links and Resources


Location Portraits for Liftoff, LLC - Brian Reilly of Liftoff, LLCBrian Reilly worked for over a decade in the AEC industry, first as a Marketing Coordinator and then as a Marketing Manager for one of the largest building and design firms in the country. Itching for a challenge, he made the difficult decision five years ago to leave his comfortable position and join an old high school buddy to help build a small technology startup focusing on Microsoft products.

Today, combining his creative background with newly learned techie skills, Brian has re-engineered himself into a technology entrepreneur. His firm, LiftOff, is thriving with over 400 clients located all around the world.

Brian has degrees from Salisbury University and the University of Maryland, and an MBA from the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris where he spent three years cruising the Seine and walking the Champs-Élysées. He lives in suburban Washington, DC, with his wife and four children. He enjoys bicycling, ultimate frisbee, and has a new found love of Bikram Yoga.

Double Dip with Brian

Join us Thursday on the podcast where catch back up with Brian to chat about his adventures around the world that led him back to the DMV.

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Next on Communiqueso

Next week, we’ll welcome Jenifer Johnson of Thornton Tomasetti to discus business development compensation models, and how the increasing reliance on seller-doers is impacting the traditional role of business development.