Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 13: startups as a special case 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, startups by Timothy Platt on March 31, 2016

This is my thirteenth 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 1-12.)

I began my discussion of startups and making a career move into them in Part 12 of this series, focusing on the pros and cons of staying where you are now, and of taking a chance with a new and still beginning-stage business. Before I continue this ongoing overall discussion I want to more explicitly note a key point of apparent assumption that I made there.

When I wrote of costs and risks, and of benefits and opportunities in Part 12, and about where they can be made to balance out more favorably, I was primarily addressing financial issues, but as only one aspect of the overall set of factors that have to be taken into account here. Quality of life issues can be as important and at times even more so, and certainly where pro and con financial considerations are relatively similar but you are currently facing a tremendously stressful workplace and work life that moving into a startup career path could help you escape from.

So yes, the financial issues are important and with both here and now income and the prospect of losing it, and health insurance and other employer-paid and provided benefits and their loss, and impact on long-term investments and life savings all entering in here – on the “what you might be leaving” side of the ledger. But quality of life considerations have to be considered there too. Most of us work for years and for decades over the course of our lives, and we devote a tremendous amount of our time and effort into this. And we put a great deal of time and energy and effort and yes – passion, that we can never take back or recoup in any way into the jobs that we take on and carry through upon. A higher base pay salary, to cite one of the basic compensation metrics, might be very nice and it might be an enabler and both for here and now quality of life and for longer-term considerations – including increased capacity to save for retirement and for larger family expense needs (e.g. sending your children to college.) But what is the cost if the workplace where you earn and are paid this financial compensation, is toxic to you and if your quality of life there is miserable and for years on end? Over time, this type of stress can take a real toll on your health, as much as it does on your peace of mind and what is the value and significance of that cost?

• So when you read, or perhaps reread Part 12 of this series, do so with as full a set of factors in mind that might impact upon you and your family, as sources of positive gain and as sources of negative cost.

With that noted, I turn to the set of issues that I explicitly stated I would at least begin addressing here: knowing both what you would do and how, and at least as importantly who you would do this with. And I said that I will discuss better knowing yourself in all of this, and your goals and concerns here too. And looking forward, I added that 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.

• I begin all of this by posing one of those questions that for its apparent simplicity and obviousness, can be easy to overlook. What does “startup” or “new business” (at least to you) mean to you?
• Do you see this primarily if not exclusively in terms of being more your own boss and of gaining a greater measure of independence that you could never achieve when working for someone else where you are now, and regardless of how well you are compensated for staying there?
• Do you focus in your thoughts and priorities on what you would do professionally, where for example you are drawn to the challenge of building a successful organization, according to your understanding of what that means and how such a business could be organized and run?
• Do you focus on the products and services that your new venture would offer, and on finally being able to take the chance of pursuing a product and service development path that would never be allowed where you are now?
• I have on a number of occasions in this blog, raised the dichotomy of breaking away to start you own business as a moving towards a positive, and breaking away to start your own as a moving away from the negatives of where you have worked and how those businesses operate – or fail to. What is your predominant orientation here and for this question, as you add up the pros and cons? I have repeatedly noted that entrepreneurs are more successful, at least in general when they think and plan more in terms of moving towards and the positive, than they are when primarily driven by what they seek to leave behind themselves. Setting that concern aside and looking at where you actually are in your thinking and preparation, what would you objectively put on a well considered and carefully thought through score card here?
• What have I missed here, that would be important to you? These are all generic questions but if you are considering this set of stay or go possibilities, what issues and questions should you ask that would be more personalized and specific to you and your family? Asking and answering these questions means taking into account your current employment situation and work history, and for where you are headed if you simply seek to pursue a current familiar career path, and balancing that against your vision of taking a fresh start in a new venture.

I briefly raised the question of stay or go above, in terms of the type of new business ventures that you might consider pursuing (e.g. attempting to build a high tech startup from the ground up versus opening a new franchise outlet as your own franchise system-backed boss, versus buying out an established business from a retiring owner to make it your own, to cite three possibilities here.) You’re selecting the right types of choices to consider there depends on what you find as your answers to the above and similar questions, and just as much as it depends on what skills and experience you bring with you that you might build from. I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider the range of new (at least to you) business options that you might consider as your best “startup” option. And I will discuss how you answers to the questions that I just bullet pointed above, reflect on what types of decisions would make the most sense for you there as you make your choices and begin to pursue them as opportunities.

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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