Entrepreneurship is full of big decisions even outside your day to day operations. Decisions that will have a profound effect on your life and career; offers that will be made that you’ll have to consider, and often, politely decline. I assure you that there will be many instances whereby you are offered to run your own startup, or take the 6 figure salary.
Don’t make this decision before reading one of my first experiences with this predicament.
I started my digital agency Station Five in July 2015 while at university. I struggled to afford a small shoebox office with no windows (actual photo below) but had still managed to land my first few clients.
A Funded Startup with The 6 Figure Salary
A funded startup was one of my first few clients, and they were backed by a very prominent individual in Australian business.
They were offering me a full time job, of course on the proviso that I’d throw away my startup dream.
They offered me a six-figure salary to be their co-founder and CTO. I was just 22-years-old.
It was a massive opportunity on a number of fronts: I searched them to see they had a large network that would be beneficial, not to mention that salary whilst still at university was nothing to be considered lightly.
My family, friends, and colleagues all advised that I pursue the idea as my business had barely started.
After weeks of tirelessness and consideration, I decided not to proceed. Instead, I pushed on with my small agency.
Why Give Up The 6 Figure Salary for an Immaterial Startup?
I didn’t proceed with the business for a number of reasons, but the two primary issues were:
- Gut feel is powerful. Joining this particular business simply didn’t sit well with me, but sitting in my shoebox office did. Here’s an article from Florida State University demonstrating the power of gut feel.
- The primary focus was money. The aim of their business was to make money. As a co-founder, it’s your job to pursue a vision. Nobody else will if you don’t, and to them that wasn’t important. While all businesses need to make money, there also needs to be a vision.
In his best selling book “Start With Why”, Simon Sinek talks about how your “why” (often regarded as your mission) is the pertinent question to ask when navigating your career.
My “why” and vision as an individual is to connect people with each other. Building connections between people and retail didn’t quite align with what this startup was offering.
So, I didn’t join the startup, and consequently lost them (my startup’s biggest client at the time) as a result.
That wasn’t easy. But, I had my shoebox office to keep me company; it was here that I’d created my vision, and that was enough to push forward.
What Happened To The Six Figures?
Fast forward to the present day, and that startup has since disappeared. Nowhere to be found, not even on the founders’ LinkedIn profiles.
The founders have all moved on to their next “big thing”. I never spoke to them after the day I declined their offer.
This story taught me so many lessons that I was too naive to absorb at the time.
Funds Do Not Guarantee Success
An endless pool of funds and the “dream team” is not a guarantee of success. In fact, according to my early podcast with Laurel Touby, there needs to be a sacrifice, and the pot of gold didn’t quite provide that. If it’s money you’re after, close the doors to your startup now and get a day job. With 90% of startups failing within the first 18 months, it is statistically reckless to assume a startup can provide a positive financial outcome.
However, if your “why” is decided like mine, and your version of success is living this “why” day to day, then these decisions won’t be hard to make.
This has been a recurring theme that I see over and over again when I work with startups. Be realistic, and trust your gut.
Life Changing is Rarely Life Changing
The second is how liberally startups use the phrase “life changing”. I don’t know what eight ball these startup founders have access to that us mere mortals aren’t blessed with, but until something is life changing, it is NOT life changing. Now, you can’t hate them. It’s a founder’s job to sell their dream. Do not allow yourself to be sold someone else’s dream.
Backing yourself is the most undervalued exercise in entrepreneurship. When you back yourself, other people, the “good ones”, back you.
I’m proud of the decision I made, and for sticking to my “why.”
It’s five years later, and my startup progressed soon after to be one of Australia’s fastest growing startups. My network has grown to include people who back my philosophies (which was challenging as a shy introvert), and I back myself undoubtedly.
I’m constantly on the look out for new opportunities, but it needs to be driven by my dream, not someone else’s.
Ask yourself this:
What makes a new startup worth millions if it doesn’t exist?
Most startups have a perceived value pre-revenue that doesn’t represent any material value than a perceived benefit which can be disproven easier than it was proven.
What is life changing about this job offer?
Life changing is something others have used to describe their role to me, not the terminology I’ve ever used to describe my own role. The CEO of Netflix was told by his own wife that the idea wouldn’t work, and to this day claims they never foresaw Netflix getting to the point it’s at now. It wasn’t beyond their wildest dreams. THAT outcome was life changing, but they didn’t know it at the time.
The reality is, the aim is not to pick the winning horse. The winning horse, in entrepreneurship, is someone else’s perception of the “winner”. Your job is to pick the horse you’ll be comfortable riding for several years because it’s you, and only you, who needs to get back on it every single day; every sleepless night; every broken relationship.
Therefore, the only winning horse in your eyes, is you.