|Your career: Start-up fever|
|As high-tech start-ups explode with growth, so have the opportunities for people in those fields--from top management to junior programmers. But is everyone striking it rich?|
|By Valle Dwight |
|In this article:|
|Profile of a promising start-up employee|
|Small business by the numbers|
That's the illusion--what about the reality? Unfortunately, for every newfound millionaire, hundreds of disillusioned IT professionals find themselves out of a job when a promising start-up collapses with huge debts or is bought by a bigger company. Others are finding the fast-paced world of the start-up too chaotic and grueling for their taste or lifestyle, and many end up missing the corporate structure that guided them in their more traditional jobs.
Check it out
According to "Business Starts and Stops," a study from the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco and The National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C., 2,897,000 businesses started from scratch in 1997. Most of those companies are small (78% of the start-ups had only the owners as employees), and were launched with modest investments. Of those start-ups, only about half survive the first five years. Some are bought by larger companies; others go under from lack of capital.
Lack of leadership and business savvy are common stumbling blocks at start-ups, according to several high-tech recruiters who have watched new companies come and go. If the founder is a visionary with lots of ideas, but little business background or leadership experience, the start-up could be headed for trouble.
Prospective employees can avoid joining a doomed start-up by doing their homework. According to Peter Lehrman, president of Emerging Technology Search Inc., in Roswell, Ga., the first place to start is by carefully checking out the company and its management team. Lehrman recommends that candidates have three or four interviews with the company, going there at different times to see how things are run.
Bob Otis, vice president at IT industry executive search firm Atlantic Research Technologies in Stamford, Conn., agrees: "We also encourage candidates to do what we do when we determine the viability and risk level of a start-up: analyze the management team. We want to know if the executive team is capable of making the company a success and if there is evidence in their employment histories to suggest that they might work well in a start-up environment."
You need to go beyond checking the leadership. Chuck Barrett, director of consulting services at Stanley, Barber and Associates, in Cupertino, Calif., a recruiting firm for high-tech professionals, recommends that prospective employees carefully examine the company's business plan and ask for references of the key management people "This is two-way interviewing," he says. "Get rid of those rose-colored glasses. You need to be very critical."
Lehrman cautions that especially cautious people might want to avoid a company just starting out, advising they wait until the company has a track record and at least 20 to 40 employees.