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Working for a start-up

02/12/2014

Marketing work with start-ups can be extremely rewarding, but there are potential downsides too.

For many marketers, job prospects may seem very promising as the labour market improves rapidly. However, when seeking a new role, it is important to be aware of how the economy has changed.

One of the ways in which this is so is through the creation of new businesses, many of which have taken advantage of new technologies and changes to the economy and society to offer goods and services that did not even exist a few years ago.

All that may sound exciting to marketers and the contribution of start-ups to falling unemployment and economic growth is notable. Indeed, a recent study by Octopus Investments published by the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggested 68 per cent of new jobs added between 2012 and 2013 were created by rapidly-expanding small businesses, despite these accounting for one per cent of the business population.

So, should marketers consider pursuing vacancies in start-ups? There are a number of pros and cons to consider.

The pros include a high level of exposure; those who make a name for themselves in driving a new business and help it join the ranks of the fast-growing enterprises can develop a reputation that will have huge benefits for career development.

Moreover, the relatively small scale of a start-up means it will be easier to demonstrate a good return on investment when a campaign works well. And in many cases, there is a chance to take a stake in the business, which means success can translate into more valuable shares and monetary rewards.

Start-ups also offer a range of opportunities not readily available at larger companies. These include being able to work at multiple levels and cover all marketing channels, rather than being pigeonholed as a specialist in just one section of the industry.

However, there are risks to consider too. The owner(s) of a start-up may not fully understand the role of marketing and while some will bow to the judgement of a knowledgeable professional, others might not. This may create significant challenges of educating employers.

Alongside that, there is a higher risk from a financial and job security perspective. Much as the rewards for success could be significant, so too the penalties for failure - not least if this is ill-defined due to expectations being too high to start with. Results will be demanded fast and the stress may be high.

However, this does not necessarily mean a marketer is playing a high-stakes game of risk and reward when taking on such a position, as it is possible to research and ask questions beforehand to make an informed judgement about whether or not a particular post is likely to be a good one to fill.

Questions that should be asked concern a number of issues: How financially stable is the business? What growth plans does the company have? How big is the marketing team now? Where is the company doing well and where might it need to improve? And, how much does the owner understand about marketing and what sort of expectations do they have?

If a company is stable, has good strengths it can clearly build on, a plan for the future and reasonable expectations, a small, young enterprise may offer an outstanding opportunity.