Thinking of joining a startup? Here’s what you should know.
A start-up is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed. Start-up is a state of mind. It’s when people join your company and are still making the explicit decision to forgo stability in exchange for the promise of tremendous growth and the excitement of making an immediate impact.
Although there are no set rules on defining a start-up since revenues, profits, and employment numbers shift drastically between companies and industries, we’ve filtered out of co-working spaces and hoodie-wearing employees to start concretely defining a start-up. A key attribute of a start-up is its ability to grow.
Things to know before joining a startup
1. Structure of a start-up
A company generating revenues below $20 million, have less than 80 employees, and remains resolutely in control of the holding company is a start-up.
2. Change is the only constant
Unlike seasoned companies that have well-defined processes and procedures and hundreds of employees conditioned to repeat the same behaviors day after day, start-ups can make changes quickly. Things like job titles, desk assignments, reporting structure, and project plans are changed frequently than the filter in the office coffee pot.
The constant change can be frustrating. Especially, when you are just getting assimilated to the place or if you have come from a company entrenched in its ways. But to succeed at a start-up you need to embrace chaos. Start-ups have their pick of motivated young professionals and they are certainly not afraid of personnel shakeups.
Showing that you can easily roll with the punches is one way to ensure your success.
3. Need to get your hands dirty
You have to be a team player, dive right in, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty. There’s an endless number of clichés to explain. You may have technical a title and a job description, your everyday activities will likely vary depending on the project du jour.
You may have never imagined a day in which you stuff envelopes, pick up pizzas for lunch, answer phones and present a proposal to the board of directors, all within a matter of hours, but the phrase “this isn’t part of my job description” should never cross your lips, expect that you’ll be performing a variety of tasks both mundane and challenging, and be ready and willing to do them.
4. Veterans are mentors, not enemies
Most startups begin with a few brilliant individuals and an idea. They find some investors and surround themselves with smart, motivated people who will burn the midnight oil and turn their idea into reality.
Then, when the company gets settled and begins to get a whiff of success, they may bring in some experts. Such as experienced, tenured professionals that will take the company to the next level. Once veterans start hopping on board, existing employees can get nervous, and even resentful.
5. Give and take the relationship
Start-ups love to reward employees for their willingness to abandon office formalities like lunch breaks and personal space. When the company is small, the executives might dole out perks like weekly happy hours and tickets to local events.
But as the company grows, the leadership might realize that they can no longer afford, or manage, these types of luxuries.
A free drink may have once been the only respite in your otherwise hectic day. So, when the freebies disappear, it can be disheartening. But fear not the departure of these gifts usually means the arrival of more practical bonuses, like health insurance.
6. Assess the risk
Start-ups can become shutdowns very quickly. This is the inherent risks involved in working for one. As a member of a small team, you’ll be the first to know about potential landmines, it will not be a case always.
It’s your responsibility, whether you’re an intern or a financial analyst, to learn as much as you can.
Read what the press is saying about the business and its investors and ask leadership hoe they’re measuring their success. If things are going downhill, you don’t want to be attached or hurt
You should have noticed an overarching theme. Joining a startup will require you to adjust your conception of the workday. You’ll put a lot of hard work and long days. Your responsibilities will be fluid. And the company you devote most of your life to could blossom overnight or crash and burn.
But if you accept your job for what it is and what it isn’t, working for a startup can be a great way to kick-start your career.