Pros and Cons of Joining a Startup

Should you consider taking a position at a startup company?

Consider this: There is a strong possibility that on your first day of work you will discover that your desk consists of a couple of used orange crates with an old door laid across the top. But that is just the beginning.

You will never know what to expect. And it is almost guaranteed that your expectations or plans will not turn out as anticipated. The results could be far better or far worse than you imagine. At the very least, you will gain a wealth of experience that is difficult to find anywhere else. And in today’s tough job market place, a startup opportunity can be very appealing.

If the company has a unique market niche, solid business strategy and reasonable funding, then go ahead, climb on board, and let’s see where the ride will take you. Here are just a few of the risks and rewards:

1. No job description

The famous phrase “other duties as required” becomes the norm. You may have to fill in for others when they are gone and perform duties that are not even close to your normal responsibilities. You will be called upon to “wear many hats.” This can be very frustrating and nerve-wracking, but it can also make your job extraordinarily exciting.

2. Low salary or no salary

It is highly unlikely that you will start with a salary or wage that is typical for the industry or for your functional area. In fact, you may be paid in stock, or a combination of salary and stock. Almost all startups face tough cash-flow challenges. Revenue or funding dollars are usually put into marketing and product development instead of salary increases or bonuses. If the company is poorly funded and revenue is slow in coming, you may not receive paychecks on time.

3. Inadequate resources

Since cash flow is tight, you probably won’t have the luxury of having all the latest gadgets – from hardware to software, manufacturing machinery to office equipment or support staff to cleaning supplies. Instead of buying new, you end up patching up the old.

4. Long hours

Regular office hours? What’s that? “Nine to 5” is a fiction at most startups. It’s more likely you will be expected to work long hours and weekend. And unless you are non-exempt, you will work those hours without compensation.

5. Out-of-business

An overwhelming number of start-ups will not survive past the first year. The revenue and/or funding were just not there, so you are now back on the street looking for a new job, and the only thing you can do with your stock is to wallpaper your next office.

But it’s not all headaches and pitfalls. If you have a spirit of adventure, then the rewards may well be worth the risks. The rewards a startup offer include:

1. A gigantic financial return

If the company is successful, your salary, bonuses, profit sharing and other financial incentives can be huge. If you own stock and the company has a successful initial public offering (rare today) or is acquired by another company (much more common), you can conceivably retire a young multimillionaire. For example, many of the original employees of Microsoft, America Online (AOL), Google and Facebook are now millionaires several times over. But a successful start-up doesn’t have to be a Microsoft to produce wealthy employees. Many start-ups with accelerated growth will produce very wealthy, highly-paid employees at every level.

2. A wealth of experience

Even if you don’t realize the big bucks, your hands-on, multi-functional experience will be a real asset for your long-term professional growth. Typically your marketability and compensation increase dramatically at a stratup.

3. New friends and business colleagues

Many existing companies have an established core of clients and vendors, but start-ups are always seeking new customers, vendors and strategic partners. There is never a dull moment. You will continually meet new people and build great friendships and business contacts that will last you throughout your career. Perhaps one of those new business contacts will become the catalyst that leads you to your next job.

4. Heart-pounding excitement

The exhilaration of being part of a successful startup produces pride and a sense of accomplishment that is extraordinary. You will never regret the long hours, hard work and smaller paycheck.

So are you ready to take the risks? Startups are not for everyone. But if you want to have an extraordinary career adventure, then go for the gusto. Hold on. It will be an exciting ride.