Startups are hard. Working at a startup is equal parts addicting, rewarding, frustrating, and confusing. One must consider it seriously before joining a startup.
Can you thrive in Chaos?
For those coming from a more rigid, already highly organized, and segmented work background, the idea of the freedom and chaos of a startup can sound exciting and liberating. It is, but it comes at a cost. If you’re coming in as a leader you must be prepared to embrace chaos and have a plan to implement structure and process that can scale. If you’re coming in at a junior level, you need to believe in and trust that your leaders have this plan and are providing you with goals along with the ability to explore what works within the framework of the brand mission. Regardless, you won’t always know what you’re supposed to do and you need to be proactive and constantly experiment to succeed.
Know the Company Culture
If the Startup has 10-20 people, then the company culture is only as defined as that small group of people have made it, whether they’ve been around for six months or two years. The company culture won’t be as defined in big companies. Here, there will be more exchanges of ideas and views with the entire team. You will be able to easily understand the work culture and behavior of the entire team. You will spend a lot of time with these people. You must be patient enough in dealing with different personalities. You must be able to make adjustments without clash in egos. The company culture of an early-stage startup is heavily defined by the founders. Who the founders are as people will tell you what the team will be like. There will be few who know each other well as many like-minded usually start the startups. One must be aware of such pools to garner the maximum benefit for self.
Know about the Founders or CEO
Know about the founders or CEO of the startup very well. Find the record of the founders, are they first-generation entrepreneurs or have ventured into several other unsuccessful projects. If the founder has just forayed into a new venture or is only a couple of years old, then remember it is going to go through a learning curve and growing pains. In this case, find if they’ve been an agent of change and forward-thinking in previous roles. Do they spend more time talking at conferences and boosting up their profile than actual organizational and leadership experience? Do they have the capacity to envisage the vision they have nurtured?
A CEO of a startup absolutely must have experience in building teams and then managing those teams. If they don’t have this experience they need to be smart enough to hire people who have those capabilities (and trust them fully) or have a co-founder than can. You need to make a judgment call, and to help you do this you need to gently inquire about the “past successes” of the founder or CEO. Some CEOs are just given money to start something but haven’t the foggiest of clues as to how to get it done because they’ve never done it before.
If you can’t ask directly, then ask around and do some research into the CEO and not just the company.
Do you have confidence in the CEO or founder’s ability to represent the company both to current investors, potential investors, the media, clients, or possible clients and those in your industry?
Understand the Product of the Startup
Knowing the product of the startup is very important. You must find if it is compatible with your existing profile. You must be able to add to your existing knowledge by working on that product. Does the product has good demand in the market and has the potential to grow in the future.
Do startups have the right investors?
Knowing who the investors are and their track record is incredibly important when considering the longevity of the company and the support it will have. If the CEO and the product is not aligned with investor’s expectations then the startup has the chance to run into big trouble in the future around meeting misaligned expectations.
Know what you are getting before getting into it
Know what you will be getting as an experience apart from getting money. Startups are a fantastic opportunity for career growth and to gain experience that is more difficult to come by in a corporation. It is a different thing to work closely with a small number of people that comprise the entire company than it is to work for a department in a large corporation. Ensure that you do anything and everything you can and contribute where needed, as needed. Have skills in mind that you want to acquire before you start. Will the startup provide you with the ability to try new things?