If you have the determination, drive and passion for it, a start-up company may be something to look into—either to start one or to work for.
You struggle through 4 (or 5, or 6, or more) years of university, you graduate and earn yourself a paper worth $20,000; the next day (months for many) you sort through big company job postings in panic. Sounds terrifying? Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to dip your toes in the possibility of starting or working for a start-up company.
Is working for a small or start-up company “legit”?
I don’t want to dismiss your little nephew’s lemonade stand, but let’s establish now that when I say a small business, I mean a start-up company like Brad Menezes and co-founder Philip La’s Kingpin.
According to Industry Canada, small companies accounted for 47% of all jobs created in Canada between 2001 and 2010. CBC Canada states that as of December 2010, the most recent figure available for registered employer businesses in Canada totals to 1, 138, 761. Small business account for 98% or 1,116, 423 of those registered employers.
Yes, working for a small or start-up company is legit.
What is a Start-up Company?
A small company does not automatically equate a start-up company. For instance, I work for a business that’s been in existence for more than a decade, but we never have more than ten staff members at a time. But most, if not all, start-up companies do start small. According to Industry Canada, factors that define if a company is small, medium or large may vary.
CBC Canada summarizes the numbers to this:
1 to 4 employees: Micro-enterprise
5 to 100: Small business
101 to 499: Medium-sized business
500-plus: Large business
If a start-up company may be right for you…
Enter Brad Menezes here, Co-Founder and CEO of Kingpin.
Second place winner at last month’s Young Entrepreneur Challenge, Kingpin is an online subscription service for men’s everyday essentials. I had the pleasure to watch their business pitch on YEC’s Competition segment and am excited to report that the company is set to launch very soon!
If you need more confirmation of Menezes’s competence and experience with start-up companies, Menezes has also helped found and is now chairman of Nspire. In his words, Nspire is “an organization that fosters Canada’s next generation of innovative CEOs, Founder and Leaders in the business and technology space.”
Nspire holds multiple events, most notably The National Business and Technology Conferece (NBTC), which is coming up on March 23 and 24. The perfect opportunity (after YEC, of course!) to learn from an amazing line-up of speakers and events and to network.
Menezes shares his wisdom on start-up companies– whether you’re interested to work for one or to start one.
What you need to know to start a company:
Menezes advices: “If you have an idea, a co-founder in mind – just do it. There’s no time that you will be “ready”; nothing can prepare you for the ride but the ride itself.” Here’s a quick lesson on how to pursue that ride.
Coming up with a business idea:
Menezes shares how Kingpin came about.I keep an online notebook with ideas I come up with… Sometimes I look at the idea after a while and realize it won’t work and cross it off the list. The concept behind Kingpin was something that seemed to make more and more sense as time went… …I started talking to potential customers and other entrepreneurs to get feedback about the idea. I made a trip to Silicon Valley; I met a friend that convinced me I had to do it because he was working 80hours/week and needed the service badly, so here I am getting it started to serve those people who work hard and need time to save.
Personally, I agree that Kingpin is a genius concept. The business idea is simple, it has a specific demography, it satisfies a need and it makes you want to slap your forehead because why didn’t you think of that?!
Based on Menezes’s story, here’s what you’ll need to come up with a brilliant business concept:
- a notepad or an online notebook to jot down ideas
- potential customers and fellow entrepreneurs who can give feedback
- guts to start the company
Getting a good business partner:
Menezes advices that partners need to have complementary strengths.
He says of his Kingpin co-founder Philip La that it “was a no-brainer. …I’m very much more of the visionary and sales/bizdev person, while Philip is an operations genius with a unique ability to make things happen.”
Philip La, after all, succeeded Menezes as Nspire’s president. The two have now worked together for approximately two years.
Menezes lists the key things to look for in a partner:
- Smarter than you. As CEO, you should always bring on people who are better than you.
- Able to tell you when you’re wrong. There is a saying: If 2 people always agree, one of them is useless.
- Complementary skills. At first everyone gets involved in everything, but as the company grows, each co-founder needs to focus on a core competency more and more and really lead that part of the company
- Friends. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your cofounder, so you have to enjoy hanging out with that person.
- Intense Work Ethic. This is everything. If you can’t work insane hours and manage many responsibilities at once you shouldn’t start your own company.
- Passion. They have to believe that what you’re doing is going to make an impact. You’re going to face tough times when everything looks like it’s going to fail; in the end passion is all that will drive you through those rough spots.
- Trust. Above all, you have to trust this person with your life.
Learning the ropes of a start-up company.
According to Menezes, the best way to learn how to run a start-up is to work under someone else’s start-up company. It gives you the opportunity to do everything you need to learn at someone else’s expense.
Menezes adds:Sure you may take a pay cut, work way more than you ever expected, but that’s the best way to train for the real thing…. The main advantage is that you get involved in so many things at once – I can’t name one large company where you can be involved in marketing, product development, creative, UI design, operations, sales/bizdev, hiring, etc. In one role. That’s possible if you’re an early hire in a start-up. I left school for a year to work with a start-up called Loose Button. That experience gave me the confidence to start Kingpin now.
What you need to know to join a start-up:
Menezes’s advice: “If you’re looking to join a start up, make it your mission; find ways to help other entrepreneurs expecting nothing in return. If you always do this, good things will happen.”
Here are some myths–and by myths, I mean personal assumptions about start-up companies–that might be preventing you from working for small businesses, and how Menezes busts them all.
Myth One: You can only work for a start-up company if you are lucky enough to intimately know a person before he/she decides to start a business—in other words, you cannot find work in a bakery if you are not the son who will inherit the business
To that, Menezes asserts: “Smart people are everywhere. We find them [job recruits] always through networking and introductions from friends.”
Yes, a degree of knowing the person helps, but networking is important in any career anyway. Start-up companies’ job postings may not be as abundant, but your determination to meet the boss and to impress the boss should still hold the same intensity as if you were to meet Google’s prominent staff members.
Menezes comments that “The…thing I really like is if someone is interested in joining the team, and just cold e-mails me directly explaining why they want to join and how they can help.”
Myth Two: Working for business start-ups are suited for business veterans.
Menezes says that both recent graduates/students and experienced entrepreneurs have developed amazing companies.
However, Menezes does admit that “if you’re young, you have a huge advantage… All you need to do is take care of yourself so you can shut out everything and just work. …I guarantee the potential upside is far greater than the potential downside.”
Myth Three: Older employees cannot work under younger bosses.
If you ever watched FRIENDS, you will recall that Chandler Bing had to work under a younger employer and had to compete against younger co-workers. The conflict ensued in hilarity and exposed a prevalent issue in a work space.
Menezes counters: “If you and the other person are mature, age is not a factor. …You need to trust people based on your belief in them, not age and experience.”
Menezes adds: “I have a friend who started a company at 18. I’m a few years older and would gladly work for him just to learn.”
You’re ready for the world of start-up businesses.
You nod, you smile, you think you have what it takes to start a business or to join one. Maybe, you also think that Mr. Brad Menezes is quite a catch for an employer.
Well, good news! Kingpin wants you, too!“We’re always looking for smart individuals looking to make an impact. We’d like to talk to you if you’re an expert in UI design, web development, marketing, operations or just an all-star in general. Send me a note – firstname.lastname@example.org.”