June 22, 2019

Facing reality or chasing a dream...

Michaela @Madamdo

I have been offered an "amazing" job. Actually, a job that is on the top of my idea list of businesses to build. Now I have been approached to be the directing manager. Currently with no option to be part of the founders or get any shares.

I see many opportunities in this offer. I could learn about how to run such a business while being "securely" employed. (Even though I would feel shady to build a competitor or slight competitor afterward...) I would build a valuable network. Maybe, if I do my job well, I could get shares and actually be part of the company?

Still, I have major doubts.
First, I wanted to build MY business - not somebody else's. My kids are still small, and I feel I might lose out on time with them taking on too much responsibility and making the life of my family not enjoyable (especially for it not being my business).

I also do not know the founders. They seem pretty successful. They see their role more like angel investors. Their dream is that I take over all responsibilities and built the business from the ground up without them being operationally involved. Sounds great for all the autonomy I supposedly have but also daunting for having all the responsibility without it being my own business. I am also a very committed person. So, I know I will put in all I have.

Okay, to be honest, my heart says, don't do it. Start your own thing. That was your plan. But, I am scared as shit. I guess what I suffer from is a severe form of FOMO.

Without tempting other options, I am super happy with my current choice and also the slow but steady progress I make. Still, I am at the "figuring out" stage, with no clear path to my financial success.

So, faced with this opportunity, I wonder if my goal of being a successful founder is naive. A dream I chase while passing on "real" (probably in terms of money) opportunities.

Now that I write that, I wonder why I feel competent and capable of making this business work for them, but not for me. Apart from them having a great network, substantial funding, I would be a crucial part of making the business successful, right?

Okay, so much talk just to say, do you feel the same sometimes? How do you handle all the doubts and FOMO? How do you work on your mindset? I struggle a lot with it. I work on it a lot too. But, it gets me once in a while, like this weekend, when I have to make this decision....

  1. 9

    I felt like that all my life. Always had job offers that were TOO GOOD to pass. I still do. But now I started saying "no". In fact I say "no thank you" multiple times a week.

    My take on it is that there's no right or wrong answer to this. It's nothing but a CHOICE. I mostly favored jobs all my life with a couple of trial businesses on the side. Do I regret it? Yes and no... "No" because I had a good life. "Yes" because of what it might have been (more freedom).

    Now I'm older and I can only confirm one thing: As we grow older we only regret one thing, "what we didn't try".

    Whatever decision you make will be the correct one. Good luck.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your thoughts. Indeed, everything is a choice. So many choices.
      But you are right. Whatever we choose is the right one.
      So no the question is, what will I regret? Not having started that job, or not having used that time directly towards my entrepreneurial journey...

    2. 1

      Wise words :)

      Some thoughts that came into my mind:

      • I personally do (sometimes stupid) things, but I do them because I don't want to have regrets for not trying. I've had ups and downs, but no regrets!
      • could you use it as an opportunity to try to negotiate a better deal? Whether it is flexibility, money, share of company, etc?
      • if you do go for it, be careful of clauses in contracts about what you can do during the employment and afterwards.
      1. 1

        Hi @rosiesherry, indeed. I am thinking about that route. And about the contract, and the implications...

  2. 5

    I also do not know the founders. They seem pretty successful. They see their role more like angel investors. Their dream is that I take over all responsibilities

    Oh no, that's such a huge red flag! They want you to do everything but not get any equity? That's not an opportunity! Where's the upside if you do well?

    If you haven't been offered equity from the start, don't assume you'll get it. I have friends who have worked for "successful founders" and went weeks without payments because the company flopped. In the worst case scenario, you'll end up working 80 hours a week, having no real autonomy, and unable to leave because of a contract and guilty feelings.

    Also, consider what are they bringing to the table that you couldn't do on your own. If you are going to be running everything, are they just money and network? You could raise money on your own and own 75-90% of the company (certainly better than 0%).

    Are there any big reasons you haven't made more progress on your idea yourself? If there's something really in your way, working at a bigger company isn't a bad idea - but you may want to pick something unrelated where you can learn more generally how a company works, and spend nights and weekends exploring your own thing.

    Hope that helps! And about the doubts and FOMO... we ALL get those feelings every day!

    1. 2

      OMG, I love your reply. It is so aligned with my negative thoughts and hesitations for this job.

      What keeps me from doing it myself... well, they bring money and a huge network. I'd would have to take on a loan to start it. And with my two small kids, I did not feel like I'm ready to put that pressure for success on our family in addition to the intense work it would need.

      But, having them "sponsor" it takes off the pressure from my part. But leaves me with being "just" an employee. There is the scenario of them exploiting me. But, there are two in this equation. So, if the salary is right and I force myself to keep boundaries (as I am an employee), it might be an opportunity, right? I'd get a good understanding of what it means to build such a business and expand my network.

      But it is also an opportunity cost, as I will not work towards my own business....

      1. 1

        I think the biggest thing for me is still their unwillingness to offer equity. I'd definitely bring it up with them and see how they react. If it's a "we can revisit it later if you perform well" I'd be hesitant. The whole point of a standard vesting schedule is to reward employees for performance over time (typically with a one-year cliff where you get nothing if it doesn't work out). Equity aligns your interests with theirs, so it seems strange to not want to give key employees a substantial chunk.

        Could be a good decision if you're really excited to work with these founders and you're getting a market-rate salary (less if they agree to equity). Maybe the equity is a personal preference on my end - I like to have a large potential upside for big risks! 😅

        1. 1

          "really excited to work with these founders" -> no, because I do not know them. Thanks for your thoughts. My heart/gut actually tells me not to do it. And all the times I can recall when I neglected that, it wasn't going well.
          Thanks for taking the time to respond. Helps me work through this.
          I think my decision was already done from the beginning, but FOMO is real...

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

      1. 1

        The pay would be great. But, they said no equity at the beginning. We can talk about it after we have worked together... That's what they said. But, yes, that's somehow a red flag. I agree.

        1. 1

          This comment was deleted a year ago.

          1. 1

            I do believe something like this might be negotiable. I haven’t asked for that directly. I wanted to make up my mind first if this is right for me.

  3. 1

    I've been reading the latest comments and your replies. The things that strike me are these two:

    1. Your inner guts tells you "no".
    2. Having young kids tells you "yes" might be a good idea.

    These two tell the same story: "I wanna do it on my own but I'm scared."

    Nothing to be ashamed of!! But now what?

    -Feelings: They seem to clearly tell you to "YES!"
    -Personal capabilities: Do you have what it takes? Knowledge? Time? It seems "YES!".
    -Finances: Can you get the money somehow? What's a pessimistic budget tells you? That's the tough one, which is why I'd lean on the pessimistic side of things. Nothing is ever as easy as we plan it. But then it seems you aren't doing so bad because you wrote this: "I am super happy with my current choice and also the slow but steady progress I make." Isn't that a "YES!" too??

    I'd like to add that "kids don't care", just in case you'd stop yourself "for the kids". I mean, kids need to eat and all that, but they are very resilient. If you are happy, they'll be happy too.

    Questions:

    1. How good do you feel if you make it work for THEM as an employee?
    2. How bad do you feel if you go for it on your own and fail?

    I wish you luck.

    1. 1

      Yes, I believe fear is pushing me towards employment. Acting out of fear isn't the best strategy. I love your two questions. Thanks for reading and responding!

      1. Somewhat good.
      2. Not too bad.

      How would I feel if I make it work on my own? AWESOME!

  4. 1

    I have historically chosen “the sure thing” over “my thing” due to my desire for security and fear of failure. For starters, “the sure thing,” isn’t always sure. I’ve been fed a lot of promises that never materialized over the years. So... there’s that.

    Also, I’ve done a lot of great work over the years. I’ve made other people a lot of money over the span of my career. And walked away with cashed pay stubs, long since spent.

    Today, I regret having focused my passion on other people’s success. Yeah, I got some decent pay checks out of it; but after that money blew away in the wind, I was left standing empty-handed.

    But, as @headofficeonabike said, we can only regret the things we didn’t do. Perhaps if I had focused my passions on my own success, I would have regretted that, too.

    Perhaps.

    I doubt it.

    1. 2

      -"Perhaps if I had focused my passions on my own success, I would have regretted that, too."

      Nahhhh... I don't think we can ever regret following our passions. If you didn't follow your passions the good news is that "it's never too late." Heck, I'm starting now! :-)

      1. 1

        Agreed! And same here.

    2. 1

      YES to following our passions! Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts! It's a human thing to err on the side of caution, but we have to get past that. Out of our comfort zone.

  5. 1

    If you don’t decide to take it, startup school starts in 3 weeks. It’s an online training program by YC to prepare companies to apply for regular YC. I found it was great last year and I met some wonderful people

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot for letting me know!