4 Things That Tell You If A Small Company Or Start-Up Is Worth Joining
Big companies are better if you prefer a more stable, proven, predictable work environment and situation. Also, if you’re more process-driven and comfortable just being told what to do. Small companies and start-ups are better if you’re someone who’s more mature, confident, independent, solutions-oriented, and not afraid to face new challenges. Also, if you want to handle more and bigger responsibilities, build your capabilities and achievements faster, and have a bigger impact.
The trick is choosing the right ones to join, especially when it comes to start-ups. By definition, start-ups are unproven, less developed, and higher risk. While they can be great learning and development platforms, many can waste your time. They don’t do anything particularly well. Nothing about their platform is impressive or of high quality. So if you join these companies, your work experience won’t be either.
To help you choose a good small company or start-up to join, I always tell people to notice these four basic things.
1) Who are their clients? – I run a company of 20+ people. Many candidates who interview with us have never heard of us before. But I remember what one candidate that I wanted to attract to our company said when I asked him if he’d like for me to describe our business in greater detail to him.
He said, “Yes, I’d like to know more, but that’s not necessary right now. I’ve seen the list of clients that you work for. They’re all top tier companies. So although I don’t know much about your business or how you do it, based on the clients you attract and service, whatever you do, you must do it very well.”
That’s exactly right. Any company that works with top-tier clients must be able to do what they do very well. Top tier companies have high standards for quality and excellence. So if you’re a company that does business with these companies, whatever you deliver to them must also be of high quality and excellence as well. And that’s a job environment and situation that you want to join to will help you become excellent at what you do too.
2) What’s the background of the management team? – Unlike being a manager in a larger, established company, there are no qualifications for starting a new company. And there are no barriers to joining one. As a result, the quality and track record of the founders and management team in a small company or start-up can vary widely. While some come from successful situations, many don’t. They have unimpressive backgrounds. Frankly, it’s easier for them to join a small or new company, where the standards are lower.
Good companies are run by strong leaders. They’re also better able to attract good people. Not so good companies aren’t. So you want to find out, have those in the management team worked in reputable companies before? What level of responsibility and success did they achieve in their previous company(s)? Of course, the more professional and impressive, the better.
Recently, another candidate shared with me what she liked about a relatively new, digital marketing agency that we introduced to him. She said that what made the biggest impression on her was her talks with the two co-founders, who both shared their backgrounds in major global agencies with her. She learned a lot during their talks with her about digital marketing and the industry.
She was excited that, rather than report to an account manager in a bigger company, she’d be working side-by-side with very senior and established people, which is exactly what she wanted for her development. She thought, “If I can learn so much from them just from the interview, imagine what I can learn if I have the chance to interact with them each day!”
3) What impression do you get from the people you meet and see? – When you go to the company to interview, do the people you meet appear motivated and engaged to you? Do they appear energized? Hardworking? Focused? Professional? Or do they seem unmotivated and lacking in energy to you? Do they look bored? Tired? Overall, do the people you see look like they enjoy the work environment and situation they’re in?
Earlier this year, I asked a candidate who was interviewing with us what she liked about our company. She told me, “What catches my attention is the energy and positive attitude of everyone I meet here. I can feel they’re highly motivated and like working here. There’s a buzz of activity in the office, and everyone seems very focused and hardworking. That’s different from some of the other companies I’ve interviewed with, where people seem to just sit in their cubicles in near silence.”
4) What are their key success factors/competitive advantages – Finally, when you join a small company or start-up, you’re not joining some people you like or a new idea. You’re joining a business. And whether that business has the ability to compete and be successful will largely determine your success too.
Now, most small companies and start-ups are optimistic. They’re enthusiastic about their potential and future. Of course, they are. They have to be. Otherwise, they’d be wasting their time. But to differentiate their optimism and objectives from reality, you need to pay attention to and understand what makes their platform and business promising.
For instance, does the management team just talk about market opportunity, a hot trend, key relationships, or a new technology? While these are good things to have, they usually don’t lead to ongoing, longer term success. The market changes, trends die down, relationships move on and shift priorities, and new technologies are quickly adapted by others. Then what?
Things that last and sustain a successful business, however, are things like quality, value, unique capabilities, and outstanding expertise. So to what degree are these mentioned or emphasized when the company and its business is being described to you in your interviews?
For instance, our company is a boutique business, but we have our unique and outstanding strengths. When candidates interview with us, we tell them that value and excellence run through everything we do and deliver. We highlight our true consulting approach to servicing clients and candidates. These don’t guarantee that you’ll be successful in our situation, but you’ll definitely get a sense of how we achieve our success and what our company can offer you.
Big companies are more transparent. More information exists about them. Because of their size, track record, and longer history, they’re easier to research and find out what you’re getting into.
However, when interviewing with a smaller company or start-up, it’s hard to tell if they’re a business that is just managing to survive, or has the potential and ability to grow and become something better. Of course, you want to join a company that can offer you the latter. While nothing can give you any guarantees, these three things can help indicate that the platform and job situation you’re considering are worth your time and effort, and won’t waste them.返回