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Are start-ups a good start?

20/05/2016

Investment trends can change like the wind, but for once the change is a positive one. As an increasingly socially aware society demands transparency and sustainability in their everyday purchases, investors in major markets are starting to follow suit.

Are start-ups a good place to start your career? In fact, are they a good option for talented people at any stage of their career? Recent trends suggest that start-ups are starting to be on the wane with employees and we briefly explore here why that might be and what the risks are.

Nothing ventured
New ventures are, by nature, unknown quantities. They can’t hang their hat on any sort of longevity to entice and reassure talented recruits. They can’t lay out a rich history of growth trends or tell tales of survival through downturns. They can’t really do anything but offer a portfolio of hope and as yet unquantified possibilities. So it comes down to gut feeling. Microsoft was a start-up at some point with a bespectacled gent pottering away in his pyjamas. Well maybe. But every major conglomerate was once a dream as yet unfulfilled; a start-up run by a few courageous and clever souls. As they say, nothing ventured…

Not a lot gained
Well, not to start with anyway. Start-up packages will tend to be lower than those offered by well established businesses simply because new ventures don’t yet have the capital. They want new employees to ‘share the vision’ and buy into as yet unrealised potential. Chances are they’ll offer a share option or commission to counteract a lower salary; a way for new employees to buy shares now or in the future at a fixed rate or earn great money if they get great results.

Who are the starters for start-ups?
Generally speaking, the kinds of people attracted to start-ups are those of a more speculative nature. They’re more likely to be risk takers with an entrepreneurial edge and a desire to have more creative scope. They’re confident in their leadership skills and keen to become a leader themselves one day. Meantime in a start-up they’re likely to work directly alongside a leader; an entrepreneur who can inspire them and teach them firsthand. As a result there can be a much greater feeling of engagement working in a small, passionate environment; the sort of engagement that’s hard to find in big, impersonal companies with elusive managers locked away behind closed doors.

The downside of start-ups
Aside from the salary issues, finding a good balance between office and home life can be difficult working for a small company hungry for growth. To a start-up boss, their new venture is like a new baby and they’ll probably expect new employees to love it and nurse it as much as they do. And as job security pretty much depends on it, there won’t be a lot of choice but to nurse that baby day, night and weekends. So while new recruits may gain invaluable hands-on experience in many and varied roles, the level of commitment can be a start-up stop sign.

First published by Victoria Biggs on LinkedIn on 20/05/16

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