Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 12: startups as a special case 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, startups by Timothy Platt on March 19, 2016

This is my twelfth installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-11.)

I have been discussing a succession of scenarios and circumstances in this series, that would lead a prudent person to consider the stay or go question as offered in its title. The one core element that runs through all of them has been that they addressed issues that can arise in essentially any industry or any type of business and that might apply to essentially anyone who seeks to remain active in the workforce; they are all relatively generic in their applicability. I turn here in this installment to begin addressing more specific job and career change scenarios that would much more narrowly apply, to more specific potential audiences. There are quite a few possibilities that would fit the constraints and goals of this series and its discussion as a whole, that would fall into that more narrowly applicable category. And I begin with one of the most fundamental of them all: startups and making the decision to found one, or to enter into one early on as it is still just getting started.

• Every business that has ever existed, that exists now, or that will exit has a starting point and generally in the vision and drive of one initial founder
• As complemented for their effort by early stage staff and managers who are willing to come onboard to what is still just unrealized potential and who make a commitment to its success too, as well as anyone else who is brought in with founder status.

I have written about startups and early stage businesses on a recurring and ongoing basis in this blog and for a simple reason. These newly forming enterprises, and their founders and builders and their challenges and opportunities, have informed a great deal of my thinking as to what a business is and what it can be. I have worked with a wide range of businesses in essentially every stage of development and have found value and even inspiration in essentially all of them. But in a fundamental sense I have found working with startups and early stage businesses to be the most fun. And I begin this posting with this note of acknowledgement. And I offer it at least as much as a statement of my personal bias and preconceptions here, as I do to explain my conceptual perspective for thinking about these new enterprises and the people who build them.

• Startups, when viewed from the perspective of this series are all about stepping out of the familiar, if not the entirely comfortable,
• And into the new and unknown – and with a hope and expectation that that can be built into something better.

According to this perspective and from the orientation of this series, startups are all about tolerance for risk and uncertainty, and how these downside considerations might measure up against the potential for success that entering into one of these new ventures might offer. And this risk and benefits analysis, however carried out, would be compared to the benchmark standard of risks and benefits faced from simply continuing to work in more established businesses, including any such business that you might be working for now. And the central question that you, and I add all entrepreneurs would have to address, coming out of these twin analyses, is that of how these risk and benefits calculations and the odds of realizing what outcomes out of them, measure up side by side.

• Would striking out on your own to build your own business offer you the best overall risk to benefits opportunity, or would staying where you are now or at least staying in more established businesses offer you that?

Ultimately, successful entrepreneurs who build successful new businesses know and understand the relative merits of breaking away from the tried and familiar, and staying employed in established businesses. And they use this insight in deciding when and where and how to break out on their own so they can put their time and energy and their financial investment resources into the right potential startup for them. And this brings me back to the acknowledging note that I started the core discussion of this posting with. I wrote of startups as being fun and I wrote of working with them as having inspired a great deal of my thinking, as to what a good effective business is and can be. But any appearance of viewing startups through anything like rose colored glasses or with undue optimism is strictly illusory.

When you find yourself seriously considering starting your own business and breaking out on your own, or entering into one very early when it is still primarily unrealized potential with no significant systems or resources in place, or incoming revenue flow, you need to be clinically dispassionate in your thinking and in your analysis of all of the pros and cons. This is not easy, and as a way too common indicator of that:

• Way too many startup founders seem to be at least as driven by what they seek to leave behind themselves professionally as they are by compelling understanding of what they would move towards and build.

I am going to conclude this post with one final tempering note that I offer with a goal of putting this discussion into a fuller and better grounded perspective. Founding, or entering into a startup as it is just starting up mean facing a tremendous range of unknowns. Effective, consistent, systematic research, planning and execution can significantly reduce the level of unknowns so faced. And in that respect I offer series such as Online Store, Online Market Space in this blog (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses, postings 20 and loosely following for that series’ Parts 1-32.) And as a second relevant resource, I would cite here my more specialized startup finances oriented series: Understanding and Navigating Burn Rate (see postings 67 and following for its Parts 1-12 as can be found at that same directory page.)

And with that noted, I come to one more point as to what this type of stay or go decision is:

• Effective due diligence planning in making a startup decision is also in large part about moving as much as possible from the unknown into the at least better understood, and mapping out where anticipatable unknowns can be found and looked out for.

I am going to continue this discussion of the startup path as a career move in my next series installment. And in anticipation of that I will focus on you’re knowing both what you would do and how, and at least as importantly who you would do this with. And I will discuss better knowing yourself in all of this, and your goals and concerns here too. And looking forward, I will discuss all of this in terms of novel startups, and franchises and other new/established business options. And that means at least considering the option of buying out an already established business, as well as considering starting your own. And then after addressing all of that I will discuss retirement as a stay or go scenario, where this increasingly means tapering off employment and making career changes rather than simply moving from being fully employed to no longer working.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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