Want to Join a Start-up? Here’s What You Need to Know

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If you read last week’s blog, you’re already aware of some things to consider when evaluating an opportunity. But if you’re interested in pursuing a role at a start-up company, there are a few more specific things you should keep in mind. Take this advice from former consultants who have found success in start-ups:

Do it for the Right Reasons:

Frankly, you should just go into a start-up expecting it to fail, because that’s actually the most realistic outcome. Then ask yourself, “If this fails, do I still want to do this?” If you’re doing it because you want multi-million dollar outcomes, then you’re delusional because that’s a highly unlikely outcome. If you’re doing it because it’s a great team, the product is interesting, the space is exciting, and you’re going to learn something that you’ve never had a chance to learn before, those are good reasons to do it.

Arjun Moorthy, VP, Business Development & Channel Sales, Hubspot | Boston Consulting Group Alum

Be Prepared for Change:

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Voxy is that I’ve messed up absolutely everything at least once, and I’m still here, because I can either lick my wounds and sit there feeling sorry for myself, or I can get up, realize no one really cares about excuses and try to find another thing that will work. It’s all a huge trial and error and it takes mental fortitude to get through all those errors.

Paul Gollash, Founder & CEO, Voxy | Booz & Company Alum

Consulting is something that attracts risk-averse people and makes them more risk averse the longer they spend time there. And in start-ups you need to thrive on risk. You need to be comfortable with the world changing beneath your feet all of the time. You may start at a company that is focused on x, but if you’re not getting traction, you may say “we’re rebranding, we are now a company doing y.” That takes some getting used to. We are fundamentally changing the way we are thinking every single day, every single month. To a certain extent, BCG trains you well for that, but here you’re living with your decisions and living in a high risk environment.

Vatsa Narasimha, EVP, CFO, & Chief Strategy Officer, OANDA | Boston Consulting Group Alum

Your Background will Benefit You…

In some ways a start-up is similar to BCG – like if a presentation blows up the night before it’s due, everyone, no matter how junior or senior, is going to sit down and split up the work. That mindset is valuable in a start-up.

– Vatsa Narasimha, EVP, CFO, & Chief Strategy Officer, OANDA | Boston Consulting Group Alum

I think consulting firms do a great job at picking people who are obviously great academically out of undergrad, but who are also weirdly wired in college to – with no compensation or real clear reason – choose to be Editor of the school newspaper, or to be head of a bunch of clubs, or start a nonprofit on the side … there’s this compulsion to get things done right and done well.

David Snider, COO / CFO, Urban Compass | Bain & Company Alum

…But Don’t Be Overconfident:

A big [pitfall to avoid] is thinking you know all the answers. Consultants are all about structured thinking, but sometimes you can get so fixated on your idea by proving it to yourself a hundred times – in your office, in the shower, etc. – that you can convince yourself you’ve found the absolute right answer. You need to be flexible enough to realize, “Wow, I totally missed this, and now I have to course-correct if I want to stay alive.”

Paul Gollash, Founder & CEO, Voxy | Booz & Company Alum