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The Pros and Cons of Working for a Start-Up Company

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Job security, salary and benefits, regular hours and a sensible work-life balance are what most jobseekers look for in any new employment opportunity. Working at a start-up firm can throw these factors into uncertainty - it’s not all bean bags and avocado toast. However, with Ireland recently being ranked number three in Europe for start-ups, have you considered the possibility that the excitement, reward potential and personal development that are intrinsic to start-up culture could be exactly what you’re looking for? Here are some pros and cons of working for a start-up company to shed some light on the reality of the situation.

 

THE PROS

Room for Growth

The clue is in the name, but start-ups really are just starting out. That means that, as an early employee, you will be a key part of the company’s development and later success. You’ll be working side by side with the founders from the get-go, learning directly from your bosses and gaining invaluable experience in areas outside of your job remit. As everyone at a start-up is involved in the fight for the survival of the company, you’ll often be expected to take on responsibilities that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to expand your skill set fairly rapidly. As the company grows, so will your responsibilities, and soon you could find yourself in a senior leadership position at a successful firm.

 

Freedom

‘Freedom’ is evident in two ways in start-up culture. Firstly, in the flexibility of working hours: employees are frequently permitted to choose their own working hours and to work from home, since so much business is conducted over the phone and online.

Secondly, start-ups are associated with huge levels of innovative freedom.  Start-ups are under huge amounts of pressure to keep up in the fast lane or fail, and so grant their employees a considerable creative license to break boundaries and completely reimagine ways to capture consumer engagement. If dynamic, forward thinking in a collaborative, close-knit team is your forte, working in a start-up could be the ideal working environment for you!

 

Purpose

When you join a start-up, you know that you will never be simply a ‘cog in a machine.’ As part of a small team driven by collaboration, the company’s mission will be at the forefront of your job description and decision-making process. In a regular office environment, middle management and sheer size of personnel can mean you often feel undervalued and perhaps unconnected with the bigger picture of what the company is trying to achieve. There’s no such issue in start-ups! In an intense, focused environment, you will see the impact of your work first hand and have a significant role in shaping the success of the company, giving you a sense of job satisfaction unlike much other.

 

THE CONS

You will Work…Hard

More responsibility means a heavier workload and while, in the long term, you may walk away with dozens of great new skills, learning on the job while likely being a single-person department is a tough undertaking. You might find yourself working long hours for little compensation, with only yours and your colleagues’ faith in the company’s mission to keep the candle burning. Work-life balance would likely be called into the mix (what balance?) as you are compelled to take your work home with you – who else will do what needs to be done?

 

Lack of Security

Harvard Business School estimates the start-up failure rate to be an enormous 90-95%. That’s an incredible (and terrifying) statistic. Tech start-ups are at particularly high risk, as there’s always the chance that a competitor could sweep the market with a brand-new development, cutting the legs from under competing companies. Leaving a comfortable corporate job with a steady salary, dependable benefits and little risk of redundancy in exchange for a high-risk, unstable work environment that could go bust at any moment is not a gamble one should take lightly.

Furthermore, while start-up founders may be excellent pitchers and have garnered piles of seed money from investors, that is no evidence of their leadership ability. With less rigid corporate structure and more direct interaction with the company bosses, you could find yourself working in close proximity to underqualified leaders that will not inspire you to commit wholeheartedly to a venture which requires your unadulterated passion to succeed.

 

Not Much Financial Reward

To begin with, at least.

Start-up employees notoriously earn significantly reduced salaries until the company begins to achieve real success. After all, it is in investors’ interests not to allow their ventures’ employees to get too comfortable. Spurring your team on with the promise of eventual riches is intended to be a large motivator for hard work and innovation within the company, although you may never end up reaping these promised benefits if the start-up crashes out, like so many do.

That being said, modern-age start-ups are ridiculed and envied in equal measure for providing their employees with perks such as free lunches (kombucha, anyone?) and wellbeing sessions. For example, personal finance company Credit Karma offers an on-site spa for employees, as well as nap nooks and music jam rooms, and Airbnb gives their employees a $2,000 stipend for annual holiday expenses.

 

There you have it – the good and the bad about working in a start-up. The stakes are high but, if you make your move wisely, the rewards could well outweigh the struggle you experience at the start. In an exclusive interview with David Dempsey, Senior Vice President of Salesforce, he told us that leaving his job in a well-known tech company was ‘the biggest risk’ he’s ever taken, leaving his stable job for a three-man start-up in 2000. Now, Salesforce employs thousands of people across Europe and America and is one of the world’s most renowned SaaS companies. It just goes to show – taking a plunge and embracing start-up culture could be your ticket to success too.

Posted by Susannah Hunt on 26 June 2019

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