A startup company can be exciting, absolutely rewarding and terribly frightening. There’s no entity or company or organization that exists that can be more rewarding and frightful than a startup. The person in charge or planning the whole thing, the owner, the main entrepreneur behind things, has probably done it before.
That person has probably really good business sense but is very comfortable with risk and the management thereof. However, as someone working at a startup, you might not be at the same level of comfort with that risk or uncertainty.
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So when is the right time to join a startup? The correct way to answer that question is going to be dependent upon your situation.
If you have a family, you’re in school, you’re a long distance away from wherever it is, you just have a lot of responsibilities that depend on your personal time or a set income, it might get in the way of ultimate success at a startup.
A startup typically is going to be focused on a very small, tight-knit team and anybody that isn’t willing to go the extra mile and be motivated by whatever means to bring the company to the next level in whatever part you’re involved in, is going to stand out and while doing great work, is going to have more of an issue as far as interacting with people and getting more stuff done. That can be an issue.
I would say if I were offered a position at a company now, as opposed to just starting a new one, from my perspective, being married with a couple of kids, business, big contracts, I can’t say that I would accept the position unless being guaranteed a certain schedule and a certain amount of income and expectations that would be pretty consistent, or at least workable around my own plans and goals. I guess it could be pretty hard to fit an entrepreneur into that setting without being the entrepreneur of that setting.
The ultimate example of someone that would get along at a startup and would do quite well is someone between the early 20’s to early 30’s that isn’t exactly tied down family-wise or house-wise or career goals-wise and has absolute dedication to making a real difference and seeing how their work goes into transforming a company for the better.
Either way, there’s a potential gigantic payoff at the end and if you can be comfortable with the risk that’s involved with putting a lot of your own effort, time, life and personal energy into seeing basically a baby of a company turned into something big, probably only to be sold 5 or 6 years down the line, it’s a good fit.
Up your risk tolerance, talk with those that matter in your life and see if it’s something important. If you’re quite comfortable with the routine and the concreteness or predictability of your income and family life, it’s probably not the best fit for you.
Good luck in your decision, have fun out there and work towards starting up your own company too maybe.