Startup Company: Do You Have What It Takes to Work For One? I’m an executive recruiter specializing in finding executive talent for startups. I help founders and leaders of early stage companies find the people that will make their company a winner.
I’m also a job search and resume coach, and a lot of my clients are entrepreneurs breaking in or out of the world of startups.
In hundreds of searches and thousands of interviews, one thing I’ve learned is that there are two kinds of people: those who have what it takes to work for a startup company, and those who don’t.
So how do you know if you have what it takes?
Here are 12 questions to ask yourself (or to ask job candidates if you’re hiring for your own startup):
1. Are you awesome at what you do?
There’s no room for mediocrity when a company is trying to get momentum going. Excellence is required, so if you don’t have high standards and really know your stuff, you won’t add value, and you won’t last long.
2. Are you excited – like really excited – about growing a business?
In big companies, it’s possible to have a job where you just do your work and go home, but successful startups are made up of people who think like entrepreneurs and feel personally invested in the company’s success.
3. Do you love wearing a lot of different hats?
When a company only has a handful of people, everyone has to do multiple jobs and pick up different kinds of tasks without complaint, so if your motto is “that’s not my job” instead of “whatever it takes,” then a startup is not for you.
4. Are you flexible and quick to shift gears?
A new company trying to find its niche has to move fast, and what you’re working on today might change strategy tomorrow. When that happens, the whole team needs to be able to get on board with the new plan without losing momentum or getting ruffled.
5. Do you work fast?
Timing is everything when you’re getting a company going, and startup people understand that and turn around work and solutions as quickly as possible. They also are great time managers, so produce more than the average worker.
6. Are you willing to work long hours?
With a lean team and short deadlines, you’ll work long hours to get a company off the ground. If that’s not possible for you, then don’t even think about startups.
7. Are you drama free?
Office politics and personal drama are toxic in a new company. Can you leave your ego at the door and focus on what’s important rather than getting sidetracked with what’s not?
8. Can you stretch a dollar?
You’ll have a tight budget so you need to find ways to get things done on the cheap, like Skype conferences instead of plane trips and interns instead of an assistant. Getting the most bang for the buck is a hallmark of startup success.
9. Can you afford a reduced salary?
A new company needs to keep spending down, so even if you’re great at salary negotiations, your compensation will almost certainly be less than you’d get in a bigger company. The more senior you are, the bigger the difference you can expect. On the upside, there is usually equity that might be worth a lot in a few years, but that won’t pay your bills next month and there are no guarantees.
10. Would you consider working for equity?
Most new companies need to keep salaries and expenses down, so someone who’s willing to work for stock instead of a paycheck is godsend. The recruiting firm I work with has a unique model for finding these kinds of people, who we call angel employees. Working for equity can be a great deal for everyone and can help the company survive until they’re making money, but do it only if you can afford to invest your time.
11. How important are benefits to you?
Most new companies can’t even think about employee benefits packages until they get rolling, so if you need high-end insurance coverage for yourself or your family, a startup is not for you.
12. Are you willing to look for a new job again in a year or two?
Most startup people love getting things going, but when the company gets too big or the foundation for growth is in place, they move on to the next challenge. And if the company is sold or folds, you’ll find yourself on the job hunt again.
As you can see, working for a startup isn’t the right situation for everyone, but if it’s right for you, it could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career and you’ll find yourself truly being happy at work. And if you get really lucky, those stock options might even pay off.
Photo thanks to 123rf.com
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