Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 16: startups and the drive to create new paths forward 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, startups by Timothy Platt on August 9, 2013

This is my sixteenth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-325 for Parts 1-15.)

Many and even most people thrive in established, already ordered workplaces and in the corporate cultures and systems that they provide. Some find their greatest happiness and success from breaking away from that and from other people’s visions of established and tried and true. They work with startups or with early stage businesses and their founders, or as founders of new business ventures themselves. And they strive to build foundations for what can become established, ordered, competitively effective business organizations.

I have been writing up to here in this series in terms of working for others and in established competitive organizations, set up and led by others. I turn in this series installment to at least begin considering startups and early stage businesses, and working at and founding them as career steps and even entire career paths. For background references on startups and early stage businesses per se, see the postings and series that I have been adding to my directory: Startups and Early Stage Businesses. I primarily focus there on the businesses themselves and on specific challenges that entrepreneurs face when setting them up and running them. And I have also been writing fairly extensively about scaling up a business and growing it beyond the startup and early business stages in that directory too.

For more career-development oriented postings and series, I recommend some selected entries from my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Part 2 continuation page, and particularly:

The Startup as a Career Path – Part 1: financial analysis and the stand-alone business versus franchise decision and its continuation,
The Startup as a Career Path – Part 2: joining a startup team, and
Transitioning into Senior Management – Part 17: leadership in startups – 1 and its Part 18 and Part 19 continuations, and
Career Changes, Career Transitions 8: startups as a career option.

My goal for this posting is not to repeat or recapitulate what I have already been writing about in those postings. It is to discuss best practices for succeeding in startups and early stage businesses as a career step or even as a long-term career path choice. And I begin that discussion here, and with consideration of early stage employment options and opportunities, and working not as a founder/owner but rather working for them. And I begin that by briefly outlining something of the diversity of options that this type of career decision allows.

• You can work with a startup or early stage business full-time as an employee, and make that level of participatory commitment to building it into a successful operation.
• You can also work part time with a startup or early stage business. That allows you to both work with and support a newly forming business and also bring in personal income from the rest of your work hours, with a more established business. This option can make startup and early stage participation more economically feasible and realistic, and certainly when participation with this new business would begin before it has started to bring in revenue, and before it has reached cash flow break even and started to generate a profit. Before then, there might be little if any funding available from this endeavor that could be paid out to staff as salary, and at whatever level on its still forming table of organization and regardless of hours worked.
• Instead of working in-house as with the first two of these bullet points, you can also work with startups and early stage businesses as a consultant. I have done that a number of times in my own career, and have written on this option with, for example my postings: Startups and a Word that Divides Them – investment and Startups and Reality Checks – startups as viewed by consultants. For a more general discussion of consulting also see my series: Consulting Assignment Lifecycle at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225 and following for Parts 1-25.
• And of course it is always a possibility that you might reach mutually acceptable terms and agreement with a business founder and switch status for the now three bullet points in which I have been discussing terms of engagement with these enterprises. Some who start working with a startup part time, chose to switch to full time and vice versa depending on the mix of opportunity, need and circumstance that they face from this. A consultant brought in as such might switch to taking an in-house or part ownership role in this newly forming enterprise – or someone who started out in-house might stay on but only as a consultant, pulling away from the level and type of commitment that being an in-house participant entails.
• These decisions can and do involve a lot more than just time and effort commitments. They also involve financial backing, and both for funding and monetary support, and for providing monetarily valuable resources, and for providing that personal time and effort under circumstances where return compensation is uncertain and where it would only be available at some future date if at all – and certainly for anyone working in-house. So for all three of the options touched upon in the first three bullet points, above, working with startups and early stage businesses involves special risks that are much less likely to be encountered in a more established business, except perhaps for one facing a change management crisis.
• But in compensation for that risk when you work with a startup or early stage business you have opportunity to help build something substantial from scratch and you have opportunity to help shape and form its processes and strategy and its corporate culture and its identity as a viable and significant part of a marketplace community.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve more specifically into the issues of working with a founder and owner as a member of a small team, and when many and even most workplace and business details are still in flux. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. You can also find this and related postings at Startups and Early Stage Businesses.


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