This post by our new Director of Business Development, Ryan, dives into his first month at Lemonly and what the similarities and differences of a startup are vs. working for the State. Learn more about Ryan in his Q&A here

My last employer turned 125 years old last month. They’ve got more than 14,000 employees, a budget of $4.3 billion and a central office that’s more than 144,000 square feet. My new employer is pushing four years old, has 17 employees and the office is almost 1,800 square feet. Despite the glaring differences, there are a number of similarities between the two.

About a month ago, I left my old employer, the state of South Dakota, where I worked almost four years in various roles for the Governor’s Office and Governor’s Office of Lemonly Headshots-RyanEconomic Development. I grew up in Belle Fourche (small ranch community in western South Dakota), attended college at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, and worked for Governor Daugaard’s first campaign before joining the Governor’s Office in 2011. In my time in state government, I saw up close a record 100-year flood, a 10 percent across-the-board cut in state funding and three trade missions to China. It was a fantastic ride.

I joined my new employer, Lemonly, this November. I wasn’t looking to leave state government, but when I learned that this growing visual design firm located downtown Sioux Falls, S.D., was looking for someone to take on business development, I couldn’t resist being a part of the Lemonly team. Whether enhancing existing relationships or creating new ones, I’ve spent the last month learning to sell some of the best visual design products in the world.

Leaving a 125 -year-old bureaucracy for a 4-year-old startup can take some getting used to. For instance, the difference in the innovation and creativity is outstanding. Not taking anything away from my previous employer, but no one’s tenured here at Lemonly. No one is burned by new ideas, design directions aren’t decided and managed by directors, commissioners and secretaries, and people aren’t afraid of making mistakes. If we want to grab a beer at the end of the day and discuss ideas or new concepts, we do it. If a designer wants to learn to code, they do it. The ever-expanding creativity that I witness from the team at Lemonly continues to impress me.

It’s not all roses. A big difference that I’ve noticed is in email responses. Turns out, if you have the “Governor’s Office” or “Governor’s Office of Economic Development” next to your title, people tend to respond much quicker. When sending an email six months ago, I’d be shocked if I didn’t get a response in half a day. Rarely, I’d have to wait longer than 24 hours to receive a response. Nowadays, I’m surprised if someone gets back to me in 48 hours. In fact, I’m often amazed when someone gets back to me at all.

The differences in my two employers have been noticeable, but the similarities between the two have been very evident as well. For instance, in both jobs, the primary focus is the customer. When I worked for the state, the customer was the taxpayer and the various companies looking to move their businesses to South Dakota. At Lemonly, our customers are corporations like Marriott International and Samsung or organizations like Major League Baseball. And in both jobs I’ve witnessed staff bend over backwards to make sure the customer was satisfied and the job was well done. In both jobs, the focus on customer service and their satisfaction has been what separates both organizations from their competition.

The other similarity I’ve noticed is the leadership. I spent a number of years working for a governor that is head and shoulders above most of the public figures I’ve met. He made decisions for the right reasons, worked hard, and always looked out for his staff and the people of South Dakota. He was genuine, thoughtful, and incredibly bright. The same can be said about the leadership at Lemonly. Our CEO and Co-Founder has continued to impress me with a similar approach to running his company. While young, he is incredibly thoughtful, hard-working, and bright. I have enormous respect for both my old boss, Governor Dennis Daugaard and my current boss, John Meyer.

With each day comes new experiences that I’m certain will continue to highlight the similarities and the differences in my past employer and current. I can’t wait to discover them all.

Until next time.