Edits since March 30th 2020 are in this color.
I wrote this Pre EIT days. Infact, it was written much before School of Excellence. While I stand by everything I have written in this article, I believe what is covered in this article represents the bare minimum. You may want to also read some of the newer articles like The Disruptive Entrepreneur to make the most from your adventures in a start-up.
These are my learnings from my friends and my experience. If you are offered a management position in a start up – chances are that you have more than one such offer. Here are some things to consider before you make your decision.
1. How serious are you taken?
No matter what people tell you. Ensure you discuss your stock options before joining the firm. The market standard is 15 – 25%. Be it heading sales or director of technology or CXO. The problem with not taking stock in the beginning is you may be doing errand jobs for a long time before anyone and even you realize that you are wasting your time.
2. Is there a Product or Service?
I am not joking! Most startups don’t have a Product or Service that they can provide right away. The least they can do is convey what the product is in the first or second meeting! If they haven’t – be sure they can’t convince any one else! A successful product or service company will be able to explain their product in less than 2 minutes. Don’t ever buy rubbish like complex, value driven, agile, confidential. Check for specifics!
3. What’s the Business Plan?
This is the most surprising part. There are organizations, even if everything came their way by virtue of luck, they still won’t be growing. The setup and plan just doesn’t allow that. Make sure there is an aggressive and practical business plan shared with everyone in the board and you believe in it. A long excel sheet doesn’t mean anything. What matters is that the plan makes sense! Like a product, I believe, any business plan can be explained in 2 minutes too.
4. Service to Product?
If a company wants to do service and then move into product. Say “No” right away. Not having a budget is only poor planning. It has nothing to do with how new or old the company is. If there is no budget for the product then don’t waste your time.
5. What’s the purpose?
This is the most important one. If the organization’s only reason for existence is making money – FLEE. Cause they will attract the wrong partners. Will have messed up policies and low potential for Success. Note – everyone likes to claim they have a purpose. But you need to test the spirits.
6. Test :)
If you are the kind of guy who can get lunch with VC’s. Use it. Present your company’s product or service (not the company) and the business plan sans the confidential information. No better advice than from a VC. They have been in this business for a long time. And they know what works and what is just plain Drama.
Don’t make the mistake of going by Profile. A great management team with a very impressive profiles means nothing to anyone. Not to the VC’s nor to the clients. It shouldn’t mean anything to you too. The proof is in the test! Test the product, Test the Plan.
7. Know when to Quit
Break patterns that are not helpful. And keep moving in the right direction. Don’t complain. Convict and Make Changes. But in the end if there is no progress. Lay it on the table. If nothing works then Quit. Remember just because someone understands that “there is a pattern” things don’t change. The only evidence is actions. And when patterns repeat and you have given your warning before and it ruins any scope for business growth. Quit. It is alright if you don’t get paid for a couple of months. When you take the right offer it will be relief beyond relief.
8. Be Responsible
If you are taken seriously chances are you have an important role. Maybe P&L or something that affects it. Don’t take what you can’t deliver or not passionate about. Know that there is a team that is risking their career with you(Board and the employee’s). Make sure you are not just another joker searching for a job with a fancy title and a nice package. Responsibility drives everything else.