Working with Startups

Ann SaravananCorporate Life1 Comment

A few thoughts of mine on working with startups. Right from my first job, I was working in startups till 2010. That makes it 19 years of my career!

Out of the four startups I have worked in, I happened to be the employee number one in three of them. When you are the number one employee mostly even before the company is formed, you get to choose the place you want the office to be located! ????

The range of experience you get in a startup is tremendous! You get to know a series of activities starting from registering the company to opening the bank account. You will have more responsibility, opportunities and recognition! There will no dress code and you get to work in flexible hours. You will have to find your own job in the organization and take charge of the situation. Most probably no role will be defined in a startup and you get to play the role which you are offered the employment for to several others. It is also a nice way to understand the challenges for each role. I still can slip into the roles of a receptionist, office assistant, travel agent, purchase officer, human resource executive, recruiter, accountant, sales person and head of the organization with much ease.

You will learn how to live frugally in office environment also as resources available at your end will be scarce. You will become an excellent negotiator with the banks, hotels, telecom companies, recruiting companies, contracting companies, license providers, other vendors and service providers.

Greatest challenge is when you must find your team. Lot of this exercise to attract the right talent depends on your / other stake holders personal charisma and the way you present your ideas and plans. It starts from introducing the company to the prospective team members as you are new entrant to the market with no brand value and absolutely no brand recall. You will have to sell the company by educating them about the company, history of promoter’s career, long term and short term vision, sources of funding etc. The only positive point is that you can generally offer good salaries and can offer whatever designation the employee demands. Benefits and facilities will most probably be non-existent and is most probably compensated by the good pay!

Only certain type of employees will suit a startup team. The ones who look at more than 2- 3 years of product pipeline, those who cannot deal with uncertainties, who expect work life balance, security in terms of work, averse to risk taking are all a big no. Enthusiastic, hardworking, those willing to invest lot of their time and efforts, experimental, innovative, risk taking excited souls will suit well. Enthusiastic new college graduates generally fits the bill perfectly. They are the ones who look forward for challenges, do not mind the late hours, filled with ideas! They are fluid, open and can be molded into what you want.

Retaining employees also becomes a challenge especially when these New College Graduates reach the marriageable age. They would have risen quite well in the organization, carrying a designation which will be unthinkable for many of their peers who decided to join “Run of the Mill” company. Their Salaries also will be quite high as only your contribution to the company decides your salary and not your age or experience. If they are finding a spouse on their own, no issues. If they are depending on their parents to look for a partner, trouble starts! The prospective in laws will find the company name not a big, popular name like WIPRO, TCS, INFOSYS. Also there are no long term “On site” opportunities. Only short trips as most startups will have a parent company abroad and work is done here in India. The office will be mostly a 1500 sq.ft functional space situated not in a swanky complex! Mostly the proposal will abort as the company do not stand up to their expectations! Not many understands the prospective groom / bride is doing cutting edge work and they mostly miss the genius who would have been their in-law! . After several aborted proposals many will have to bow to the parental pressure to work for a “standard known name” ! So many leave looking for a company with a well know name which will be offering them may be less salary and designation. The brave ones stay on and the smart ones come back after couple of years ditching the standard company who do not offer the thrill of working in a start up!

Another set of resources which can get attracted to these startups are the abroad returnees. They will have sufficient experience, not averse to start ups, would have made a bit of saving from overseases experience and willing to take risk. They will have other attractions too like coming back to own place. But cultural shock is something you have to handle for them. You must sell the company to them and their spouses! They mostly will be attracted to job profile and designation! But work environment will be something they would not have expected. There were cases the prospective employee did not join as the toilets were not up to the expectations and after scouting for couple of companies came back as the person found all toilets in Chennai were similar!

You will be part of every order your company secures, every client the company sign up and be part of the entrepreneur’s dreams! You will have strong relationship with other startup vendors who are sailing in the same boat and you will be willing to experiment and collaborate with them and trust in their ability to deliver. You will enjoy the special attention you get from them as you most probably will be their first or only client. You can also find marketing personnel who follow you for years in whichever organization they are in and develop a good personal rapport with you and benefits when your company grows.

You tend to believe and behave that the company you are working is yours and address it as “my company” and many prospective employers of yours you will meet during this stint of yours will back off thinking you are not available in the job market!

On top of all you will become an expert in thriving in a chaotic environment!

What happens when the startup gets acquired by another one? Planning to write on that soon!

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