Startup salary too small- Autonomy, stimulating work may compensate for less pay

February 21, 2016

Q: I’m working at a startup where the owners keep adding to my workload without increasing my salary. I’m starting to feel frustrated and resentful but afraid to talk to the owners because they keep telling us they aren’t drawing salaries. What else can I do but quit?

A: Remember why you joined in the first place. It’s almost a given that you will be paid less at a startup than you are worth. However, for many the chance to wear many hats and the potential for huge financial rewards later when the company gets traction outweighs the lower initial salary.

Other rewards of working at a start up are: greater autonomy and authority, variety and stimulating challenges, flexibility with less bureaucracy, a hands-on business education and a chance to shape the enterprise.

The benefits that will help your future marketability include greater responsibility, more visibility in a broader range of skills and a higher title sooner than is likely in a larger company.

While long hours and pitching in wherever needed are job requirements, an honest conversation with the owners about the impact the increased workload is having on you and the quality of your work could provide them with valuable feedback about the needs of their growing business.

Be calm, tactful and unemotional. Ask if they would be willing to reassign some responsibilities, hire additional support or increase your pay.

There are many creative options beyond salary that could be more economical or advantageous to a company with tight cash flow.

Flex hours, extended delivery deadlines, telecommuting, additional holiday time, dividends, profit sharing, health benefits, fitness membership, car/phone allowance or an assistant. If you continue to feel under valued, you may decide you’re better suited to a more structured workplace and exercise your option to leave.

Reprinted from The Province, February 21, 2016.

How do I keep staff?

September 19, 2010

Q: I’m having nightmares about coming to work only to find I have no staff left. My company laid off 1/3 of our workforce, and has a wage and hiring freeze so everyone is doing double duty. My staff is overworked, overwhelmed and threatening to leave. How can I hang onto them?

A: A Right Management survey found 54 per cent of U.S. organizations lost key leaders in the first half of 2010. Replacing these people is more costly than investing in them.

Keep your brightest in house by valuing them. Give them complete credit for their ideas, solutions and results. If there are no bonuses or raises, find other creative ways to recognize them. They need to believe their work makes an important contribution to the company. Prove it does and celebrate their efforts.

Reinforce job security and foster loyalty by creating a growth plan that can lead to future promotions. Give staff the tools they need to succeed by investing in their professional development.

Enhance their performance with leadership coaching or training. You may not be able alleviate their stress, but you can reduce it by creating a positive environment.

Be their advocate. Remove unnecessary obstacles and streamline tasks so they can more easily achieve their targets. Acknowledge personal sacrifices.

Give them more control. Autonomy to get their jobs done their way will empower, motivate and satisfy them. Focus on their outcomes not on how they accomplish them. Intuit’s founder Scott Cook discovered “people will work nights — weekends — because it’s their idea.”

Share decision making with your employees. When people are consulted about things that affect them they are more apt to stay.

Originally printed in The Province, September 19, 2010.

Build on your own success

December 28, 2008

Q: I’m reflecting on the rocky road my company has been following this year. How do I increase my job performance and security in 2009?

A: To continually enhance your performance, it’s always a good practice at year-end to reflect on where you excelled, where you could have been more effective, and to set new targets for the coming year.

Start by acknowledging what you did well to generate momentum and a solid foundation for future successes. Go ahead, brag to yourself. What wins am I celebrating? What did I do to achieve them?

How can I build on these strengths in 2009? What accomplishments were most meaningful for me this year and why? What will I do to create more success next year?

While it’s most rewarding to review the wins, it’s the learning from the year’s deficits that often produces the biggest payoff next year. Plus, employees who demonstrate significant improvement on their shortfalls get the manager’s attention.

Be brutally honest. What disappointments did I have this year? What important lessons did I learn from them? What will I do differently? What do I need to complete or rectify to move forward with a clean slate in 2009?

Finally, create clear realistic targets to focus your energy and attention for the new year. What goals do I want to attain next year? How will I accomplish them? What action steps will support my goals? Where do I want to end the year? What do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to be celebrating a year from now?

Refer to your answers to these questions regularly throughout the year to monitor your progress and keep you on track. Displaying focused direction, proactive initiative, and the ability to adapt and grow in a turbulent economy can distinguish you as invaluable talent well worth retaining.

Originally printed in The Province on December 28, 2008.

A bruised ego won’t kill you

March 4, 2007

Q: I was passed over for a promotion in favour of a less-qualified candidate. I’m furious, insulted and feel like quitting. How do I face my humiliation?

A: Being rejected, overlooked or even wronged can be agonizing, but no one has ever died of a bruised ego. Leaving the company will mean enduring yet another application process without a track record to capitalize on. Your greatest victory can still be with your current employer if you take these steps:

  • Get over it. Take a limited amount of time to be angry and nurse your ego back to health. Purge your negative feelings so you can convert the pain into a gain.
  • Get back in the game. Like Olympians, true winners evaluate where they excelled and where they can improve. Schedule a meeting with the decision maker(s). This takes courage, but demonstrates your determination, commitment and passion. Acknowledge the winner. Do not dispute the selection process; instead, be curious and seek feedback.
  • Get the gold. No Olympian trains in isolation. Enlist a mentor and supporters to keep you motivated and moving forward on your plan. Build visibility with decision-makers by reporting on your key accomplishments. Solicit and integrate their feedback.

You are positioning yourself to step into the promotion should the new candidate not work out, to be considered for other upcoming roles or even to have a position created especially for you.

Originally printed in The Province on March 4, 2007.