Now that the Web 2.x rush is upon us, and there are more and more startups being formed with with “professional” money or simply out of a garage.
Whether it’s garage based or VC based, the situation is often the same:
Long hours, lots of promises, a demanding and infallibile boss and Kool-Aid by the barrel.
I know a little about startups; I’ve been the CEO of a startup, I’ve gone the investment route, and I’ve worked for a number of startups as a Consultant.
The Crazy Boss
Is your Startup Boss Crazy? Almost definitely. Anyone has to be somewhat crazy, or at least supremely confident to start their own business; the risks are incredible, and the odds of success are very slim, far slimmer than 10% just to stay alive for a couple of years, let alone go public or have a Merger or Acquisition.
Anyone who starts a company KNOWS that it is a risky proposition; but what happens next is what decides how crazy your boss really is.
There is a difference between being bold, and doing something difficult but achievable, and reckless, like climbing Mount Everest without preparation and the right team.
Have they accepted the risk, or are they just pretending that the risk does not exist, and that they will be successful, period?
Do they have any self doubt at all, or are they completely confident while staring down the barrels of their competitors?
Do they believe their own press releases, and believe they really are a “leader” at what they say they are, or do they know that’s just a game and deep down they are nothing but a scrappy startup with limited chances of success?
Do they allow you to fill your role as VP/Manager, Team Lead, etc, or do they micromanage everything because they know everything better than you do?
Do they make extravagant claims to customers that you know would be difficult or impossible to fulfill?
Do they mislead the press, their customers, or investors? If they regularly misrepresent or overstate the facts to customers or clients, why wouldn’t they be just as apt to lie and mislead their employees such as yourself?
I could go on and on — but if you think your startup boss is crazy, s/he probably is.
If they blame you for everything, it’s almost definitely not your fault.
Do you have a startup boss from hell? If so — find another job.
They’ll curse you forever to have the common sense to leave but guess what — it’s your life, not theirs.
There are a million scrappy startups out there — for those thinking about joining one, I advise maximizing your cash in the negotiation and minimizing the stock — something I’ll cover in another article. [DISCLAIMER: I am not a Financial Advisor and this should not be construed to be investment advice, etc. etc.]
But noone needs to feel that they work for an abusive, unappreciative boss who’s so adept at their sales pitch that lying has become second nature.
If that’s how you feel about your current job — find another one — quick.
The world has seen from G. W. Bush what a supremely confident leader who is far too quick to discount the risks can bring upon the people that he purports to lead.
It’s bad enough to be govenerned by someone that out of touch with reality; you don’t have to work for one too.