There's not much worse of a feeling in your gut than when you're escorted out of a job. I was unceremoniously given the boot about 6 years ago when I worked for a regional newspaper. It was a pivotal point in my life and career. I had to decide whether I was going to battle back to higher success – or whether or not I was going to stay down.
Looking back, my situation was honestly a lucky one. I left an industry that was dying and left a company who is now known as one of the worst employers to work for.
At a startup company, the odds of success are stacked against you. Employee costs and returns are one of the most volatile investments that a startup company can make. A great staff can skyrocket a business, poor hiring can bury it.
Something else happens at successful startups, though. Employees that were great one day may need to be let go another. A company of five employees is enormously different than a company with 10, 25, 100, 400, etc.
In the last 3 years, I've worked at 3 startups.
One startup outgrew me… the processes and layers of management suffocated me and I had to leave. It wasn't their fault, it truly was that I no longer had a ‘fit' in the company. They continue to do very well and still have my respect. I just couldn't be there anymore.
The next startup wore me out! I worked in a rough industry, for a company with no resources. I gave a year of my career and gave them my all – but there was no way I could continue to keep up the pace.
I'm with a startup now that I feel very comfortable with. We're at about 25 employees right now. I'd like to state optimistically that it will be the company that I retire from; however, the odds are against me! When we hit a few hundred employees, we'll see how I'm able to cope. This time, I'm key to the company's success so perhaps I can stay ‘above the fray' of the bureaucracy and work hard to maintain the agility and progress through massive growth.
Some folks might think that a startup is a brutal employer if they have high employee churn. I don't believe so… startups with no churn concern me much more. There are stages in a startup's life that work at lightning speed compared to an established corporation. You're going to wear some employees out and you're going to outgrow even more. Unfortunately, staff sizes are small at a startup so your chances of lateral moves are slim to none.
This may sound ruthless, but I'd rather a startup turnover half the staff than lose all of it.
So… if you really want to work for a startup, keep your network close and stock away some cash in preparation. Learn from the experience as much as you can – a year at a healthy startup can provide you with a decade of experience. Most of all, get a thick skin.
Would I rather not work for a startup? Uh… nope. The excitement, the day-to-day challenges, the formation of policies, the growth of the staff, landing a key client… these are all amazing experiences that I'd never want to give up!
Figure out what you're great at, don't be surprised if you're escorted to the door, and get ready to attack the next great opportunity with the priceless experience you've built up.