What comes to mind when you think of working at a start up? Hard work, long hours, tons of perks including travel bonuses worth thousands of dollars, onsite fitness centers, office nap rooms, ping pong tables, and three free meals a day…
Start up life in Ghana has the hard work and long hours, but unfortunately not as many perks. Still, there are benefits to working for a company building from the ground up, and it is an experience I would recommend for everyone, having myself worked in a start up for 2 years. Just be sure to know what you’re getting into!
Characteristics of start ups
- Flat organogram
- Non-traditional work environment – less bureaucracy so things get done faster, probably no Human Resources department or personnel
- Relatively less structure – Usually few job description and employment contracts
- Opportunity to climb up the ladder quickly – Due to the flat organizational structure and the small employee size, it’s easier to further your career and take on more responsibilities. Unfortunately this doesn’t always come with an official promotion and salary/benefits increase. Whatever the case, be sure to push for official promotions to boost your resume and credibility.
- Opportunity to learn a little about a lot in a relatively short period of time – It often feels as if start ups are figuratively just throwing things at the wall hoping something sticks. If you work at a start up, chances are as the company attempts to diversify, you’ll be put on (willingly and unwillingly) various project teams. This is a great experience if you’re someone that likes every work day to be different and can stay focused while working on different tasks.
- Opportunity to grow your professional network – Due to the relatively flat organizational structure of start ups, it’s highly likely you will attend more than one high level meeting, hopefully along with a high level executive such as your CEO or CTO. I say hopefully because sometimes you might end up having to go it alone because of factors such as scheduling conflicts. Whether you’re alone or with your superior, it’s important to make connections with the people you meet and also to make a great impression on them. They could turn out to be a mentor, potential employer, potential client (if you start your own business or move onto another start up) or someone you just hit up for advice.
- Opportunity to have your ideas listened to and to make a real impact – Again, the flat organizational structure is great because there aren’t many steps to personally contact a high level executive or the project lead. If you’re someone that is motivated by having their ideas implemented, or is demotivated when they feel like they are not making a difference at the work place, you will definitely fit right in at a start up.
- Opportunity to earn good money quickly; but there’s a ceiling – Most start ups don’t have formal benefits and pay structures. Whereas in a larger company, there might be 6 salary tiers based on position and level experience, these tiers are usually somewhat compressed in start ups, because there are much fewer team members. However, this means you’re likely to hit your start up’s salary ceiling quicker, meaning you could end up being underpaid down the line because the fact that your CEO earns less than the industry average (whatever that is) might come back to bite you.
Look out for my next post on the cons of working at a start up!
By Guest Hacker Regina Quaye
Regina works in Customer Relations for an Agric start up based in Accra. She aspires to own and run her own multinational cosmetics line.