6 Things I Learned Working at Startups
Working with startups is a whole different ball game in comparison to working for an established company. But this post is not about startup vs MNC jobs.
I had worked with 3 startups full-time and currently pursuing my entrepreneurial dream. I’d like to share a few of my learnings with you.
If you are looking to get started (or currently working) as an employee in a startup, this will come in handy.
Startups Are Risky — Not The Way You Think
A lot of people think the risk associated with a startup is just about losing your job if the company runs out of cash. However, in my experience, there’s a bigger risk. The risk of losing your purpose.
Most people join startups for a reason. Whether it’s to learn how to build a company or to get a higher pay cheque or maybe even to experience the whole startup thing. But you have understand some startup grow, but, some fail to achieve product-market-fit and pivot to some other product.
If you have joined a company because you liked what they were building, and thought they were disruptive. What happens if they pivot to a more boring business model? Companies could also get bigger and they might end up hiring different people to lead different teams. If you are the kind of person who would like to handle multiple hats, at some point in a startup, you won’t get that flexibility. What would you do then? That’s the primary risk you’d have to tackle.
“Date” The Founders Before Joining Them Full-Time
There are enough and more stories about great startups failing due to bad founders. It’s critical that you feel comfortable with the founders and their vision. Do the founders seem capable of pulling off their vision? Do they have enough insights about the market they are trying to address? Are they likely to pivot? You need to get into the founder’s head and know what they know. Once you are convinced about the product and the vision, take a call.
For startups that have found product-market-fit or ones that have raised huge funding and expanding very fast, you might not get the chance to talk directly to the founders. In this case, in addition to understanding about the company and what it’s planning to do, find out who you are going to work with and try working with them on a small project.
Bad managers are the most common reason for attrition. Working with them for a short time will help you judge how well you can work with them (not fool-proof, but better than taking the risk of quitting you job, joining them, and then finding out you can’t get along).
Never Be Afraid To Ask For Something
Want a higher pay cheque? Need a new tool that’s available in the market that’s going to make your job easier and more efficient. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Scrappy startups might not give you a go ahead so easily.
Think you deserve a raise? Show your manager (or in most cases as with startups, the founders) how your contribution has added to the company’s bottom line. Make it easier for them to justify giving you the raise (or a go ahead for anything else) rather than them having to think of why you deserve one. Be proactive and back your request with data.
Quit When You Feel You Are Not Adding Value
The biggest mistake you can make is tagging along when you know that you are not adding any value. It’s beneficial for both your career and the startup you work for to find a replacement if you are not feeling content with your current job.
Your job could also get redundant as new automation tools come in. It’s only a matter of time before management decides to act on it. If that’s you, either find a new role that’s more fulfilling and adds value to the company or move on.
Work Smart — You Need To Have Work-Life Balance Else You’ll Get Burnt Out
Burning the midnight oil. Working 48 hours straight. Think they are bragging rights? Maybe. But I am sure your doctor won’t appreciate it when he’s treating you for spondylitis, insomnia, or hypertension. Startups are about working hard. But not so much that it breaks you.
I realised the importance of health only when I fell sick and had to be off work for 6 months. Work efficiently. Cut off any activities that might waste productive hours and go home on time.
Don’t Be Afraid To Spend Money When Your Company Raises Funds
The startup you worked for was scrappy and you had very low budget to work with. Suddenly, they raise funding and you have a lot more money to spend. Most people simply increase their spending linearly, so that they get comfortable with the spending pattern. But startups are not about being comfortable. In my experience, it’s better to spend the money to reach more people and collect their feedback rather than waiting for several months to get the same feedback.
Startups are fun. It’s a great environment to work and can really help your career. Evaluate your options and join the right startup.
Originally published at inc42.com.