What springs to your mind if you think about working for a start-up company? Fear that your job could be short-lived if the company doesn’t flourish? Concern that you will be working for someone nobody has ever heard of? Or excitement? Perhaps this could give you an early opportunity for real responsibility and allow you to satisfy your entrepreneurial inclinations? Well, here are some thoughts on just this topic from Founder and CEO of “carwow”, James Hind:
“About two years ago we spotted an opportunity for a price comparison site for new cars. We created a website allowing you to compare prices from UK main dealers without the usual hassle, haggling and hidden costs. Over the two years since we launched we’ve sold more than £100m worth of new cars. We’re still very much in the start-up phase, though, which means rapid growth and facing new challenges every day.
What do we look for in staff?
We have recruited some graduates and we are looking for something quite specific when we choose people to join us. We need an independent, proactive approach to tasks and a willingness to take on a variety of roles. “Jobsworths” definitely need not apply!
Start-ups are in early stages of growth which means a lot of uncertainty for us. We need people willing to tackle any project that comes up. We particularly look for individuals with varied backgrounds and skills and with a wide range of experience, so they’ll be well-prepared to help out wherever they’re needed.
We want self-starters. We haven’t got time to micro-manage. Our staff need to be willing to get things done!
How do we remunerate our staff?
One of the huge benefits of working for a start-up is that if you join early on, you’ll often receive stock options as a part of your compensation package. This means you share some of the risk of the enterprise. Your salary may be lower than it would be in a similar position at a more established company. However, it can also lead to a potentially significant pay-out if the company succeeds. It certainly adds to the motivation!
Why work for a start-up as opposed to a more established company?
Start-ups are typically small, dedicated teams, where everyone pitches in to get things done. There’s no disguising the fact that you have to work hard and the hours can be long, but the work will be really varied. Every day will be different, you just pitch in on a project, as and when it comes up. There’s no red tape or corporate bureaucracy – good ideas are developed and implemented quickly, so you really see hard work pay off instantly.
If you’re looking for an exciting, challenging, and rapidly-changing job where things often move at a frenetic pace, you’ll probably enjoy working for a start-up.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Find investors early on and ask them for advice. Anyone thinking of putting money into your company has an interest in helping! They’ll normally give honest feedback, which is enormously valuable. If you manage to set up a dialogue and build trust then you’ll find them much more receptive when you ask for funding.
Don’t forget to look for government grants and small business loans as well as external investors. Crowdfunding is increasingly popular and is typically significantly faster than raising capital from angel investors. Finally, make sure you budget enough time to raise funding – it can easily take six months from the time you begin the process to when you actually receive the funds.
What can students do while at university to prepare for working at a startup?
Getting hands-on experience in the industry you’re interested in is invaluable. Seek out internships and part-time work where you actually DO things – as opposed to reading about them! Many universities have entrepreneur clubs or societies, where you can meet and network with like-minded peers.
We even offer summer internships, so send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested!”