Disagreeing With Leadership's Direction

Debbie is working for a startup but barely making ends meet as a result. Should she be pursuing positions with larger companies instead of sticking with smaller businesses?

QUESTION: Debbie in California is working for a startup but barely making ends meet as a result. Should she be pursuing positions with larger companies instead of sticking with smaller businesses?

ANSWER: There has to be a wise combination of those two things. I’m not going to trade off your potential in your life for you working for something that is basically a dead end because they’re small potatoes. But if they’re small potatoes that are turning into big potatoes, then you want to be along on that ride. That’s a better career path because in corporate America, you get stuck in there—yeah, you get some benefits, but you get stuck in that system, it’s tough to climb through those ladders. It’s chutes and ladders big-time.

Our company started 20 years ago in my living room on a card table. Today, there’s 400 of us, and had you joined us 10 years ago when there was about 100 of us, you would’ve had all kinds of opportunity had you been a high producer. You would’ve made a lot more money than you would’ve made in corporate America. What you want to do is get both. You want to catch the ride up and have something that has integrity and that matters.

I think you need to see some growth year over year, which means that there’s opportunity starting to happen. And how much energy is in the place? Are these people heading somewhere, or are they stuck on stable? Year over year, how much growth have they had?

What we’re talking about is not your opportunity. It’s you don’t agree with the business model. That’s different than the place isn’t growing and your career’s stuck because it’s small and has integrity. That’s a completely different discussion. I think now we’ve gotten to the core of your problem with them. You don’t think they’re going to win because you don’t think their business model is solid. You think they’re trying to be bottom feeders in a sense pricing wise and that may create topline growth but it’s not going to create profit growth. I don’t disagree with you, really, depending on what’s going on with it.

If you don’t think the business model is going to take you there, that’s not an indictment of small, online companies. It’s an indictment of that one.

I think some of your best opportunities are with small companies that have great ideas and that are exploding and that have really good business models that you can plug into and agree with—not only what they do and how they do it but even stuff like pricing structure. I do think it’s probably time for you to move on because I don’t think you believe in where leadership’s taking this company.