Working for a small company has a lot of benefits. It is easier to make your voice heard and get recognition for your work. Smaller companies sometimes take better care of their employees and offer benefits not available in larger corporations. Most of all, though, it’s a lot of fun!
Working in a startup is also associated with greater uncertainty. If the company is in a decisive period and management fails to make the right decisions, your job security is jeopardized.
Here are five things that you should ponder before accepting a job offer from a startup or small IT company.
1. Poor Management
Management is important. Poor management is disastrous. The problem is that new and small companies have inexperienced managers to a greater extent.
The first sign of poor management is a non-serious hiring process. This may indicate how other things are conducted as well. If you meet with the CEO and he/she is late or come ill-prepared, this is clearly not a good first impression.
2. No Business Plan
Ask to see the business plan, or at least ask about the company’s vision and the way they plan to get there.
The business plan is one of the things venture capitalists evaluate before investing. The business plan contains the company’s vision and goals. It should also cover potential customers, target markets and how the company expects to grow. All companies should have a business plan. If not a formal one, at least clearly stated visions and goals.
In addition to a business plan, they should also have a very clear idea of why they hire you. Ask for a written job description – this is especially important if you are hired for a key position or management role.
3. A Lot of Hot Air
Any talk about “90% there” is a bad sign. It pretty much just means they are not there at all. The old cliché if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is fits well here. If they promise you milk and honey, expect water and bread :-)
Personally, and from own experiences, I find realistic down to earth people more trustworthy. There is a trade-off here, though. Having a vision and being able to sell the business is essential for success. However, there is a fine line between being visionary and optimistic, and naïve and manipulating.
4. Inadequate Organization
An inadequate organization can cause problems. Holding several positions (being an owner, sitting on the board, and/or being part of operational management) cause intrapersonal conflicts which leads to bad decision making. Investigate the ownership structure.
5. Insufficient Capital
It takes money to make money. In Sweden, at least, you can get a credit report for a business as a private person. If you feel the least bit hesitant about the company’s financial situation, look it up. Companies won’t think twice about doing a background check on you.