You just got a job offer at a start-up company and are very excited about their vision and product. However, the company is in the process of an exit. What does this mean for you?
A job isn’t as simple as just matching your skills to the job description. It is also about matching your ‘wants’ to the company, like the future plans of the company, vision, environment, structure and culture. You must be a right fit for the company and the company must be a right fit for you.
An important question to consider when deciding to accept a job offer, which is often overlooked, is what is the company’s exit strategy? Has it already been fulfilled and what does this mean for its future?
Implications of an exit driven company
An exit is a way for a business owner, investor or VC to achieve a return on their investment. It’s achieved in various ways, either through liquidation, a merger/acquisition or through an IPO.
If you begin to work at a pre-exit company and then it’s acquired by a larger organization or IPOs, there could be many changes to company that will affect your position.
So you must consider the potential changes and decide if the company will still be the right fit for you post exit.
Often people want to work for a company because of the vision, product, direction, culture and environment. But after the exit, all of this can change.
Questions to consider:
- How will the exit impact my role?
- What changes will happen after the exit?
- How does the exit impact the business model and strategy? Will it change?
- Has it achieved funding? If yes, who are the VC’s involved?
- Are they planning an IPO? If yes, will the business model change?
- Do they want to sell? What will the new owners do with the company?
- Will I still support the new vision of the company and be able to help the company achieve their goals?
- If it the company mergers or is acquired, what changes will happen? Will there be a change in culture, roles/structures?
How can an exit change the company?
Here is an example of how a company can change due to an exit.
A start-up company is in the process of conducting an IPO, so it can re-focus efforts from growth to profit, or some other variable to maintain the share price.
You are motivated to join this start-up because you want to work for a business with high tech capabilities, and to date, all revenue generated is pumped back into the product. However, the potential IPO could cause the company to refocus and change their goals drastically. So a company looking to exit in the near future might not be the right choice. You may not thrive in the new incarnation.
On a day-to-day basis, the company values, culture and structure will directly impact your ability to achieve immediate and long-term success. So, when a company is undergoing change, you need to think about how this change will impact you and how you feel about it. Will the environment allow you to excel?
For example, if you are the type of person that loves to drive change within the company and wants the freedom to get it done, traditional traits of a start-up environment, how will you fair within a company that is in transition. Will a more structured and process driven company allow you to thrive?
There are of course exceptions to the rule. Certain businesses thrive on the owner/founder being present because they are the person who drives the innovation and change and despite size and goals, the feel of the start-up environment is maintained.
Here’s an example: What if Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates took a step back from their businesses? Would Facebook or Microsoft be where they are now? In this instance, the founders are who dictate the environment.
On the other hand, many ‘early stage’ businesses are culture driven business that thrive based on established systems. How will scaling the business after investment change the environment? Will it improve the business, allowing success to continue? or will the skills and types of people and subsequent culture have to change?
All this change may allow you to develop new talents, skills and tools that you didn’t otherwise know. You may discover that you like the change and the challenges that the post-exit company provides. However, it has to be considered and discussed in the interview process.
What should you do?
The above are just some examples of elements that need to be considered when deciding to take the job. Every potential opportunity you approach, needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Just be sure to take the time to understand the company’s goals and future plans and consequent environmental shifts to help them achieve their goals.
During the exit process and even the investment process, as discussed, the different stages have different implications on the work environment. The skills required change and potential career growth moves in a different direction. It’s always advisable to understand the future of the company and understand how you will fit into the business after the exit or investment.
This will help you understand if you are making the right choice and accept the job.
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This article was written by Ryan Cilia, Account Executive at Red Executive