Realment voleu treballar per a una startup?

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No hi ha una sensació pitjor a l’intestí que quan et escorten fora de la feina. Fa uns 6 anys, quan vaig treballar per a un diari regional, em van donar l’arrencada sense cerimònia. Va ser un punt crucial de la meva vida i carrera. Vaig haver de decidir si tornaria a lluitar cap a un èxit superior o si em quedaria o no.

Mirant enrere, la meva situació va ser sincerament afortunada. Vaig deixar una indústria que s’estava morint i vaig deixar una empresa que ara es coneix com un dels pitjors empresaris pels quals treballar.

En una empresa d’arrencada, les probabilitats d’èxit s’acumulen contra vosaltres. Els costos i rendibilitats dels empleats són una de les inversions més volàtils que pot fer una empresa nova. Un gran personal pot disparar una empresa i una mala contractació el pot enterrar.

Tanmateix, passa una altra cosa en les arrencades amb èxit. És possible que els empleats que estiguessin molt bé un dia haguessin de deixar anar un altre. Una empresa de cinc empleats és enormement diferent a una empresa amb 10, 25, 100, 400, etc.

En els darrers 3 anys, he treballat en 3 startups.

Una startup em va sobresortir ... els processos i les capes de gestió em van ofegar i vaig haver de marxar. No va ser culpa seva, realment va ser que ja no tenia un “ajust” a l’empresa. Ells segueixen fent-ho molt bé i segueixen tenint el meu respecte. Simplement no podia estar-hi més.

La següent arrencada em va desgastar! Vaig treballar en una indústria difícil, per a una empresa sense recursos. Vaig donar un any de carrera i els vaig donar tot, però no hi havia manera de poder seguir mantenint el ritme.

Ara estic amb una startup amb la qual em sento molt a gust. En aquest moment som al voltant de 25 empleats. M’agradaria afirmar amb optimisme que serà l’empresa de la qual em retiraré; no obstant això, les probabilitats són contra mi! Quan arribem a uns centenars d’empleats, veurem com sóc capaç d’afrontar-ho. Aquesta vegada, sóc clau per a l’èxit de l’empresa, de manera que potser puc estar “per sobre de la lluita” de la burocràcia i treballar molt per mantenir l’agilitat i el progrés a través d’un creixement massiu.

Algunes persones podrien pensar que una empresa startup és un empresari brutal si té un alt nombre de treballadors. No ho crec ... les startups sense molèsties em preocupen molt més. Hi ha etapes en la vida d'una startup que funcionen a la velocitat del llamp en comparació amb una corporació establerta. Us desgastareu alguns empleats i us en sortireu encara més. Malauradament, les mides del personal són reduïdes a l’arrencada, de manera que les vostres possibilitats de moviments laterals són minimes.

Pot semblar despietat, però prefereixo una rotació inicial de la meitat del personal que perdre-ho tot.

Així que ... si realment voleu treballar per a una posada en marxa, mantingueu la vostra xarxa propera i emmagatzemeu una mica d’efectiu en preparació. Apreneu de l’experiència tot el que pugueu: un any en una startup saludable us pot proporcionar una dècada d’experiència. Sobretot, té una pell gruixuda.

Prefereixo no treballar per a una startup? Uh ... no. La il·lusió, els reptes del dia a dia, la formació de polítiques, el creixement de la plantilla, aterrar un client clau ... són experiències increïbles que mai no voldria renunciar!

Esbrineu en què sou fantàstics, no us sorprengueu si us escorten fins a la porta i prepareu-vos per atacar la propera gran oportunitat amb la inestimable experiència que heu acumulat.

15 Comentaris

  1. 1

    All this rings true! I can definitely attest to many of these points, the startup with 10 employees operates differently when it has some success and 100 employees, etc. It’s always interesting to see it goes.

    One thing I’ve noticed is working for small start ups has ruined me! I can never imagine myself going back to the daily grind.

  2. 2

    Nice post! I worked my entire career for startups and I write articles for my blog about startups.

    There are couple of cold hard facts of startup world those who are considering it must know:
    1. Working for a startup is a gamble EVEN if you are at a partner/owner level. One scumbag can ruin the entire organization. I have seen countless startups fail, because one founder made ego-driven decision only to damage the company irreparably.
    2. Salaries are about 40% below the levels of large corporations. Benefits can’t be compared (most of the time).
    3. Most of the time, work weeks are MUCH longer than in corporate world.
    4. Probability your company will go under in your tenure… about 60% (depends who did the research on the numbers).
    5. You have to be either crazy, like ramen noodles, or have savings that allow you the risk.

    I have lead operations in a startup that grew from 20 to 100 people in 2 years (and is still growing) another one that went from 10-50 in 6 months (they are still in business). But I also had to close one down and leave another one, because I know they will go under (again). Can you handle the volatility?
    Startup world is for those who have the stomach for it and are willing to be EXTREMELY flexible. If you are not, stay away.
    It is like restaurant business, all nice/romantic/cute from outside, but PURE HELL inside. Anyone who tells you otherwise are either high, full of you know what, or drank too much koolaid.

    Salut!
    Apolinars "Apol·lo" Sinkevicius
    http://www.LeanStartups.com

  3. 4

    I agree with your perspective about start ups in general. It must be said however, that the entire experience in a start up is based on the leadership abilities of the founder(s).

    Poor leadership and for that matter below average management skills generally leads to bad experiences whereas good leadership and above average management abilities can make the experience worthwhile whether the business succeeds or fails.

    • 5

      Hi SBM!

      I’m not sure the ‘entire’ experience is on the founders. Many times founders are entrepreneurs and idea people. Sometimes they aren’t well-rounded at hiring, sales, marketing, raising money, operations, etc – I don’t think you can blame them for not having all the skills.

      Startups are forced to go out on a limb and make big investments in talent – some work, some honestly don’t. As Apolinaras states, that can take down the entire company.

      Founders do the best with what they have. Sometimes it’s not enough. That’s the risk of a startup!

      ¡Salut,
      Doug

  4. 6

    Good article! And the comments that follow. I think start-ups have been glamorized and made to look simple. If you are truly and developing more than a home business, it can be quite gut wrenching. When you go to work for one, you have to be ready to experience the highs and lows along with the owners.

    Though you may think you understand that, till you been there…

  5. 7

    Hola Doug

    A really great article and timely as well. Been thinking about moving on from when I’m at because I’m not sure what growth there is at times for me. There are things I want to learn and can’t until and if we can sell clienst on it. It’s a challenge when working with the HR industry.

    However, the opoprtunity I see that made me consider it even more is a startup ad agency.. literial down the street from my house. This article is going to really make me think things over during the next few months and see where my heart is.

  6. 8
  7. 9

    I graduated two years ago and really tried to get hired at several startups. I’ve had trouble. I always felt my skills and work ethic would be best suited for a startup. I hope to start one or work for one at my next position, whenever that may be.

  8. 10

    I think working for a start-up would be great. But it also stems from the idea that I want to be an entrepreneur and I enjoy the ups and downs and the hectic lifestyle. That’s what I would look forward to in a start-up that I don’t think many large corporations would give me.

    However I can see how that lifestyle wouldn’t fit for everyone so it really depends on what you are looking for in a career.

  9. 11

    Doug,

    Good post, as usual.

    I tend to agree with you, in general.

    But, a couple of additional points are:

    1) It’s a marriage — I give, you give.

    Sometimes that is lost in the translation at a start-up. Stock options can be the positive golden handcuffs on this, but start-up’s that dole out measly amounts with high strike prices are immediately being disingenuous with their employees, especially because salaries at start-ups usually aren’t at market average.

    2) Personality vs. Performance

    Unfortunately, too often start-up’s are led by personality and insular decision-making that impacts hiring and firing. You wish this would be performance based

    3) Leadership is key

    An entrepreneur doesn’t have to have all of the skills, but they do need to have the wisdom to offset their deficiencies and listen to people around them in a meaningful way

    4) Outgrowing an employee

    This sounds good on paper, but certainly not to the employee who doesn’t understand how their skills aren’t keeping pace, particularly if the leadership and staff is young without a full skill-set themselves to insulate themselves from questioning, as is often the case in an early stage company.

    5) People look out for #1

    The negative consequences of high staff turnover that is not voluntary isn’t good. Motivation through fear is never healthy. People don’t go into jobs with their next job in mind, so if friends fall the resume gets sharpened.

    Overall, again, I agree with much of what you said, but I think you’re taking a look at this with rosy glasses.

    The start-ups that have been the most successful in the current era (Google) treat employees with respect, not as hired hands to be used as discretionary tools.

    The thing that I always come back to in start-up environments is rapport — if you can build a rapport and common ground with your leadership then it’s a fit. If your leadership is aloof, standoffish, net-net, cut-and-dried and leaves you scratching your head when you’re experience out weights theirs by a factor of 2 or 3X then they don’t get it and are deluded by their own ego and insecurity.

    Esdras

  10. 12

    The only definitive difference between a startup and an established company is the age of the organization.

    Més enllà d'això, qualsevol company can demand long hours from employees, offer free lunches, compensate people poorly or embrace new ideas. Venture backed startups may have millions in the bank, and 100-year old companies can face cashflow issues. Brilliant and monstorous managers are hiding everywhere.

    The age of the company should not inform your career decisions, but the culture and beliefs of those within that organization. Don’t ask whether or not you want to work for a startup. Discover which qualities you find most attractive in exciting companies. Ignore the date of incorporation and follow your dreams.

    • 13

      I’m going to respectfully disagree, Robby.

      Age isn’t the only difference. Often Startups are working from borrowed money with limited financial and human resources. They are under enormous pressure to grow and get to a positive cashflow as quickly as possible.

      Culture and beliefs are far outweighed by pure survival at the beginning of a company. Take a look at any great company today who has the culture and beliefs you are looking for and I’d gamble quite a bit that they didn’t have those opportunities when they were strapped for cash, in debt, and answering to noisy investors!

      There are quite a few charitable and ‘green’ supporters at my work, but we don’t have any profits to help change the world (yet).

      Doug

      • 14

        Your statements illustrate your main thesis, which I believe is to claim that that there is a dramatic, fundamental and impactful gap between young and old organizations. However, I note the following:

        You write about companies that are “working from borrowed money with limited financial and human resources. They are under enormous pressure to grow and get to a positive cashflow as quickly as possible.” This sounds like a description of the big three automakers, one of many recently failed banking institutions, or really qualsevol company that is struggling. It is not exclusive to startups.

        You also posit that “culture and beliefs are far outweighed by pure survival at the beginning of a company.” But isn’t failure to survive what drove you from an established giant of the newspaper business? You imply it was a terrible place to work but you were not the one who initiated termination.

        Finally, your third point seems to content that to “help change the world” requires profits. Kiva, freenet i per suposat GNU / Linux are all startups which have already benefited the world, without much thought for their own profits.

        My own point is quite different. Although there may be alguns highly correlated qualities, the only absolutely guaranteed difference between a startup companies and traditional employers is age. I would challenge anyone who is considering pursuing (or avoiding) employment at a startup to ask themselves what beliefs about age have informed their perspectives.

        I don’t think this message is merely academic or pedantic. When deciding where you want to work, company age is an unreasonable place to begin. Rather, one should consider the industry, values, work ethic, workplace culture, and the personalities of those you meet in each individual organization.

        Abject preference for startups or traditional enterprises is, in my opinion, a form of ageism. As discriminating jobseekers, we should evaluate employers the basis of meaningful criteria. This does not include the date of incorporation.

  11. 15

    I’ve been working for a start-up for the past 5 months and enjoy it. We have been putting our minimal resources into a site redesign and coding improvements. There is a lot of excitement for me with the future of the next year as should be with people who are in startups. I know there will be more work to come and more pushing of the site over the next 6 months, but hopefully it will pay off and I don’t out wear it. It’s not for everyone, but I don’t want a traditional job.

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