Things to Consider Before Working in a Startup

You are pondering your next career step, and an offer from a startup company comes along your way. What do you feel? Excitement, sparked by the thought about the fast-paced environment? Uncertainty, when you consider how many startups fail? Curiosity about how does it feel to work with people who are not afraid to dream big?

All the things you have ever heard about startups, good and bad, are whirling in your head. How close to the truth are they? 

Luckily, this article comes to the rescue - sorting out all the pros and cons, supported by the views of Tidio’s employees, who joined the company in the early stage. They truly know what it is like working in a startup! And hopefully, after reading this piece, you will know if working at a startup is something for you!

What is a startup?

But first things first - 

Let's ensure we are all on the same page regarding what a startup actually is! 

As a startup, we consider a company in the early stage of its development. One of the most significant characteristics that distinguish startups from other small businesses is the pace of growth. According to Forbes, startup aim to grow with speed. Often, it starts to operate with just a basic version of the product, iterating it swiftly and focusing on increasing the number of users. There’s one ultimate goal: win the global market with innovative solutions or services.

Eric Ries said, “A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” And this definition gives a glimpse of the mixed blessing that characterizes working at a startup. 

Let’s dive deeper into it; here are three essential challenges to acknowledge before you submit your CV and click “send”.

Turning chaos into structure

Here is how it works - 

At a startup, everything is in the early stages, and there is a lot to discover. From testing MVPs and gathering feedback from customers to learning how to recruit the right people. Therefore, be ready to implement new ideas and create processes from scratch. 

And it doesn’t stop there.

Some of these ideas will inevitably fail, processes turn out to be unscalable, and for sure, there will be some bad hirings. Therefore, the ability to make quick iterations, as well as adapt to new circumstances, are must-haves.

Huber Jackowski, Compliance Manager at Tidio, sums it up: “Don't expect to get clear processes; it's both problem and opportunity. There is a lot of uncertainty and quick changes; on the other hand, you will learn how to iterate ideas quickly and set up efficient and not overcomplicated processes.” 

On the other hand, Oskar Kwaśnik, Customer Service Lead, describes it: 

The product and the processes change rapidly, which can be a favorable or unfavorable factor, depending on your ability to adapt to that environment. There are several benefits of joining a startup, the greatest of which, in my opinion, is the experience of creating and scaling processes and products from relative scratch.

Sounds like something to you? Great! It’s just the beginning! :)

Understanding your contribution

Have you ever wondered how many startups survive? 

According to the latest data, 90% of startups fail (63% of them operate in the IT industry). 

So how can they avoid it?

Apart from the product, business model and vision, the crucial factor that determines success is an effective team. And the smaller the team is, the bigger responsibility lies on each team member. Be ready to roll up your sleeves to do the work that will contribute to the company’s growth because, as was said before - rapid scaling is an inherent part of this type of business. 

On the other hand, being aware that one’s work really matters and observing how an individual’s skills and talents impact a company’s success is a massive gratification. More than that, tangible contribution to the company’s growth turns into a measurable track record of achievements, enriching professional experience and opening many doors in a future career.

I remember when I joined Tidio at an early stage as a developer. The whole company had maybe 25 people on board, and everyone was responsible for everything. This was challenging but gave me fantastic business knowledge on how to scale a company. We had a tangible impact on the decisions that were made and on how we wanted to scale our teams and develop our career paths. Right now, we have over 180 people, and it was a pure pleasure to watch how our company grows and how processes have been created”, says Jędrek Meder, a Frontend Developer.

Seeing the bigger picture but staying focused

Be sure that you will have a chance to get your hands dirty in many ways. There will be much to do, try and create. For many, it’s one of the reasons why working at a startup is great.  However, prioritizing goals and being engaged in activities that strongly utilize one’s experience and knowledge is essential. Otherwise, it’s easy to get busy, in extreme situations, even burnout, and still inefficient. Here is a bit of advice from Hubert that comes in handy:

"You will get a lot of interdisciplinary knowledge. It can be a massive asset, but be careful not to fall into the pitfall of participating in every process that is possible. Keep focused on your main expertise while learning new things and developing new processes.

It partially responds to the often-asked question about work-life balance in startups. It’s very true that working in a business during its scaling phase is demanding and requires determination and resilience. 

Not very optimistic, right?

Well, let’s look at this from a different angle. According to Peter Drucker, “Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art.“ -  the way we do things matters a lot. 

Let’s make it plain: it’s better to work smart than hard.

Above all, the right prioritization and focusing on tasks that really matter is the main ingredient of smart work. Many startups know it, so they propose solutions that boost productivity while helping to maintain a work-life balance and stay healthy while working in a startup. 

For instance, methods that work well for Tidio are precise quarter goals in the form of OITs (Objective, Indicators, Tasks), flexible working hours combined with the opportunity to work remotely and access to the HearMe platform.

Don’t be afraid to ask during the recruitment process what’s the company’s approach to this subject.

Is working at a startup worth it?

Every startup is different but very likely, you will face the above-listed aspects in any fast-scaling business. For some people, they would take place on a list of reasons why they love working at a startup. Others would prefer a slower pace, well-defined job roles and clear processes that come in handy in every situation.

The one thing I can promise - 

if you’re ready to take your chance and accept the fact that sometimes it wouldn’t be an easy ride, you will get an immense and exciting opportunity to learn. Working in a startup truly can be a lifetime adventure!

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