Startups are, by nature, prone to rapid change. They are typically led by rookie executives, and things that employees take for granted at a larger company may be quite different, poorly managed, or not even exist, at a startup.
Do you work at a startup? Considering joining one?
Here are 6 practical things you should do (or not do) right now:
1) If you have other options for healthcare, seriously consider them. Maybe your partner has a non-startup job and can cover you. Perhaps you can get reasonable coverage directly from something like Kaiser, or through ACA. Why do I suggest this? Between job changes and company benefit changes, I am now on my 6th insurance plan in 4 years. 6th! From 3 jobs. And this isn’t from habitual job hopping, folks. 2 of the 3 ended with exits. Trust me, changing insurance and doctors is a colossal pain in the ass, especially with a family. Speaking of pains in the ass, COBRA is a wonderful thing when it’s your only option, but it takes weeks to be active. Until then you are paying out of pocket at a time when your income may be zero. It is an expensive distraction when you can least afford one.
2) Don’t put much, if anything, in your flex spending account. In the event of an exit, you will likely have just days to spend down your balance. What do I know about this? I lost hundreds of dollars from my FSA when Meebo sold, wiping out any tax savings and then some.
3) Set up your own retirement account, and contribute to it. Provided your company doesn’t offer 401(k) matching (which is free money that you should always max out) seriously consider managing your own retirement account and skipping the company program. One alternative is a Solo 401(k). You still get the tax benefits but you skip the hassles of rollovers, keeping track of multiple accounts, and costly early withdrawals.
4) Check your paystub! I may sound like Mom or Dad here, but think about it for a second. If your payroll “department” is one piece of a finance person’s job who also handles AR/AP, processing expense reports, and revenue forecasting, do you think they might make a mistake from time to time? I’ve seen it happen. Someone getting paid another person’s bonus, a raise never being entered, tax withholdings paid to the wrong state, you name it.
5) Always respond to good recruiters. No matter how much you think you know, you do not control when it may all be over for you, or for the whole company. If you get a personal inquiry about a decent sounding gig, respond. Tell them that the role sounds interesting but you are happy where you are. Or point them to someone in your network who may be interested. Accept their LinkedIn invitation. When your time to hunt comes, and it will, you’ll have a group of people to reach out to. Bonus: you just may help someone else land a great new job.
6) Network at work. Today’s coworker could be tomorrow’s client, or they could be on the receiving end of a back-channel reference call about YOU. Harvest those relationships. There is something to be said for being respectful, reliable, and likable. I’d argue you’re always best served operating that way, but it is especially important in a world where companies and people come and go so frequently. When your startup is done and everyone spreads to the ends of the earth, you’ll be well served having friends out there.
Disclaimer: these sort of posts typically refer you to “your financial advisor” before making any decisions in the areas mentioned above. If you happen to have one, fantastic. Talk to them. If you don’t, I’d suggest you do your own research before making any decisions. These are just my thoughts from my experiences.
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add?