Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 15: startups as a special case 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development, startups by Timothy Platt on April 24, 2016

This is my fifteenth 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 1-14.)

This is also my fourth installment to this series in which I discuss startups as a stay or go option, and more specifically as an option that can be moved into as a next career step. And over the past three installments here, I have successively discussed a range of issues that would go into understanding this option, from the perspective of your own career goals and objectives, and from the perspective of what you bring to the table when considering it.

I title this portion of this overall series in terms of startups per se. But I have in fact thrown a wider net through much of its discussion, to include business ventures that would not fit a more standard startup model, but that might primarily be new to you where you would be setting up as your own boss. In that regard, I have been discussing three basic categorical new business options:

• Startups build from the ground up as new standalone business ventures: more traditionally considered startups per se.
• Franchise options and becoming a franchise holder of a new outlet, where you are your own boss there, but where you operate within a larger corporate system. And in this, you build and operate according to a pre-developed and vetted pattern and business model and with some measure of both support from the parent company and obligation to it.
• And buying out an established small business – as couched here in terms of buying out a single practitioner professional office, as its outgoing owner moves into retirement. Examples here would include for example, buying out the business practice of a retiring physician or dentist, attorney or accountant.

I stated at the end of Part 14 that I would bring my “startup” discussion here into clearer focus by looking at least briefly into two working scenarios that I draw from the first of these three categories: true startups. And to repeat my anticipatory notes on this from the end of that installment, I will at least begin to delve into some of the issues that arise here, when:

• An innovative tech-oriented entrepreneur is driven to bring what they see as a pivotal new innovation to market as products that can create value and for all,
• And when a professional who sees overriding value in their gaining an opportunity to work face-to-face with their customers in meeting their needs, and who dreams of finding, or creating an opportunity to work with those customers and to get to know them as individuals and as members of their community.

I have worked with entrepreneurs and with startup businesses that they set out to found, that fit both of these patterns, so what follows here is based on real-world examples.

I have a technology background with my first two degrees coming from an engineering school and I have fairly extensive experience working as a scientist and hands-on with technology – primarily information technology and its systems, but with forays into other technical areas as well. So it should not be all that surprising that when I have worked with startups and their founders, I have experience working with new ventures that fit the first of those two patterns – and yes, primarily in information technology and internet-related fields.

• At least in my experience, the founders of these ventures are essentially always technology experts in the fields that they would build their new ventures into.
• And prospective founders in this arena essentially always have a clear understanding of, and a real vision for the potential of some very specific product or service innovation or innovative business approach that they could build their new business around that would confer defining marketable value on it.
• I have at least briefly worked with would-be entrepreneurs who have vague ideas of what they would develop and offer that would in effect define their new business, but who never quite seem able to articulate what their great new idea or product or approach is, or why the participants in some marketplace would flock to it. At least in my admittedly limited experience, I have never seen such an entrepreneur succeed. You need to know where your efforts should take you as a clearly defined goal that you can evangelize to others, to bring them into your venture too, if you are to succeed. You need to know what your goal actually is if you are to reach it, and certainly if you are to enlist the participation of others into your venture to help it and you reach that goal.
• I have worked with entrepreneurs who have succeeded and even very significantly, and the clearer their vision and the more compellingly and clearly they can share it with others, the easier this success becomes for them, or at least the more barrier-free it becomes.
• Really knowing the field you would build your new venture into, and its technologies, can mean knowing better and in greater depth what is possible as new and different in creatively solving problems in new ways for the people you would sell to. But even in-depth expertise per se might only leave you with blinders on to any new possibilities, and in a rut. So technical expertise can only offer one part, even if an important one, to what you would bring to the table here. You also have to be innovative enough in personality and temperament to be able to see beyond the here and now and its successes and challenges, to be able to see new possibilities too. This is a second piece to the puzzle of what you need to be able to bring to the table.
• A third puzzle piece takes you outside of what might be your comfort zone of working with technology per se, and particularly where that has in large measure meant working hands-on with it and in a non-managerial capacity. This is an area where a business mentor or consultant can offer value, in helping a primarily-technologist become a business owner and manager and leader too.
• A willingness and capacity to take on new learning curves constitutes a fourth puzzle piece here.
• And as a fifth piece, I will add a willingness to take calculated risks, and with real emphasis on that word “calculated.” This piece fits directly onto all of the others noted up to here.

There are other aspects to this puzzle that I could raise here, some of which I have already alluded to in this series. And I will expand on it in my next series installment where I will I turn to consider the second basic scenario that I noted towards the top of this posting that I said I would address here. I will formally address that new business option next, noting here that all of the puzzle pieces that I just identified here for the first scenario have their counterparts in that scenario too. And follow-up traits: new puzzle pieces that I will note there, have their counterparts for the context of this posting too. Then after that I will turn to and discuss franchise options and buying out and taking over an existing small business, as identified here as the other two basic new business categories that I will address in this series. 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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