In the spirit of that piece, here are 10 more tips on what to expect once you land that great startup gig:
1. Be prepared to work long hours.
From the outside looking in, startups are sexy and glamorous, but they also involve a lot of grunt work that happens in a 24/7 environment. That means being prepared to work late into the night and on weekends, and being married to your inbox. In other words, startups are not a 9-to-5 job.
2. Embrace the idea of multitasking.
To perform only a single role at a startup is a luxury. Given that many startups are lean and mean, most involved will have multiple roles. One day, you’re coding, the next day you are helping to prepare for an investor presentation or setting up a booth for a conference.
3. Instability is a fact of life.
There really isn’t job security anywhere these days in the private sector but startups are not the place to map out a long-term career plan. Depending on sales traction or financing, your job at a once-exciting startup can evaporate overnight.
4. The pay isn’t great.
Don’t expect to be pulling in big bucks, even if you are working for a startup that has received funding. These days, new companies need to be careful about how and where they spend money, so staff are paid okay but not great. Of course, how much is the excitement of working for a starttp worth to you?
5. Not everyone is going to like what your company does.
The thing about a startup is that optimism reigns internally. Every start-p believes it is going to rock the world with a great product or service. Consumers, however, may not share your enthusiasm.
6. Don’t expect a big piece of the pie.
Unless you’re a founder or an early, early employee, you will, at best, get a minuscule piece of the equity pie. Many companies offer stock options but doing the math reveals you’re getting a token amount that won’t pay off the mortgage unless the startup sells for a gazillion dollars.
7. Life can be an emotional roller-coaster.
On a good day, the users flow in and TechCrunch gives you a glowing review. One a bad day, your website craps out due a technical glitch, and an influencer complains about a minor issue that gets lots of attention on Twitter.
8. There’s always a hot, new rival over the horizon.
No matter how good your startup is, consumers are always looking for something newer and shinier. This fickleness will drive you crazy because there is no explaining it.
9. Put swag in its place.
Swag, a fridge full of Red Bull and a foosball table don’t mean much if there aren’t enough customers coming in the door.
10. Be prepared to fail.
It’s not that failure is a bad thing because, in many ways, it is a good thing if it means learning valuable lessons. But the reality is that most startups fail. They fail to attract consumers, generate enough revenue to become a business, and or even to survive. It is a sad fact of life but it is part of the game that has to be accepted.
This list should not discourage anyone from joining a startup because it can be an exciting and stimulating place to work. At the same time, it is important to recognize the realities of working for a small business that can often be underfunded.
At the end of the day, startups are not for everyone. But for people who have an appetite for risk and an interest in being part of something new, startups can be awfully appealing. Just know what you’re getting in to.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
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