Are You Cut Out for a Sales Gig at a Startup?
So, you really think you have what it takes to withstand the seemingly never-ending "no's," yet have the desire to earn excessive piles of money? If your answer to both questions is yes, then sales just might be the place for you. The question quickly becomes: Are you the right person for a startup or should you be looking for a more structured, corporate gig?
If you’ve ever been in sales this won’t come as much of a shock, but there is quite a difference between selling for a startup or small company versus a larger one. Actually, there are huge differences, so let’s have a gander at a few, and yes, there are exceptions to every rule.
It starts with the interview. When you are looking to join a smaller company, which we’ll lump startups into, you can expect to get questions about your past, upbringing, work experience and success -- all of which will have very little to do with some award you received at your last job and a lot more to do with how your experiences have sculpted you into who you are as a person. To put it plainly -- startups hire people, not college degrees and resumes. It’s much more important for a small company, which has limited assets, to hire the right person the first time, as opposed to a much larger one that has considerably deeper pockets and can afford to make a few mistakes.
A larger company is going to be interested in talking through your resume, point by point, your college degree and grade point average as well as which Disney character you would be and why -- all of which are pretty worthless to a startup.
Defining the opportunity. If you are the kind of person that is comfortable making $70,000 per year for the rest of your life and/or are opposed to risk, you will flounder in a startup, so you must go for a big company. I want to be very clear that there is nothing wrong with either of the above, $70,000 is a lot of money, but if you’re the type of person that doesn’t need regular direction, is totally comfortable taking risks in life and wants to make a heck of a lot more, a smaller company will likely be your cup of tea.
In a large company your income will be limited by sales quotas and year-over-year expectations that self-correct, combined with the fact that you’ll never be allowed to make more than your boss. The way you progress is you do your time and get by or even shine, and at some point your boss will get promoted and you will too -- which can take years or even decades in some cases. You will also be incredibly structured and have extremely limited control over decision-making, which is why you’re making less money.
Working with a startup or smaller company will often provide you with autonomy, and actually demand it. You will have to be able to manage yourself and your time. If you’re productive with your time, are capable of solving your own problems as opposed to just pointing them out and relying on someone else to fix them, the sky can be the limit -- think stock options -- but if you’re not, you’ll be gone faster than a donut at the police station.
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.