I’ve spent more time in my working career in venture backed startups of less than 100 people than in companies of hundreds. But for the past few years, I’ve worked in a mature organization of hundreds of employees, positioned in the marketing & technology services business.
One of the invisible badges that people are starting to wear in NYC (similar to Silicon Valley) is a “startup badge.” The “in” thing to do is to work in a startup. And there are many good reasons for that of which I won’t go into but on any given day, Charlie, Fred, Chris, Roger, and others are evangelizing (sometimes even myself!).
I’m going to play the contrarian tonight and say that while startups are fun and educational rollercoasters, there are many mature companies here in New York that have great opportunities. Take a deep breathe and hear me out.
There are many stereotypes of working within a mature organization:
- Lots of politics
- Talent gaps (warm body syndrome)
- Lack of creativity around compensation
- Slow to move
You get the idea.
First: do your due diligence and stay away from these. If you can’t research companies and know how they operate before or during your interview process, you deserve to be in one of the above stereotypical companies.
While these stereotypes are for good reason in many cases, there are many reasons to join a mature organization in your young career, mid career, and/or executive career.
While each career stage has pros/cons and I don’t have the time to go into each and every one of them, I will highlight some things I’ve found over the past 2.5 years to be extremely helpful beyond early stage startups.
- Talent: If you are into reading books, especially non-fiction business books, it’s fairly easy to align yourself with some of the authors you might love. In the advertising industry it’s especially easy since it seems that every major advertising guru has written a book. If there is a story/book you love and the person is still working, go work for them, you can learn a lot…
- Infrastructure: Bigger companies generally have the resources to subscribe to services that normal startups can’t. How many early startups do you know that subscribe to Nielsen, Comscore, MRI, Simmons, etc? Access to these services can inspire big and new ideas which maybe is what you tackle down the road with a future startup.
- Compensation: Spend less time worrying about if you are getting paid and more time solving strategic and tactical issues and opportunities. How many pay-periods has your startup missed and what types of issues has this created?
- Access to Senior “People”: The “people” is in quotes as it could mean a lot of different things such as clients, holding company execs, Wall Street, etc. Big Companies generally have extremely tight relationships with very senior clients and exposure to them to learn about how they think, operate, and make decisions is priceless.
- Resource: If you are in a company who has some free cash flow or wants to invest in a certain project or idea, it’s much easier to pull off in a larger company.
While the 5 reasons above are not bulletproof nor complete, big companies (mature) can provide a great opportunity for many in the advertising, media, and technology ecosystems. While you don’t have to spend your entire career within a mature entity, there are many reasons to get your feet wet and to dive a little deep which could really benefit any startup you might build.
While startups are sexy, don’t underestimate the power of working for/with a mature entity.