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Ask Dave

Should I Stay at My Job Solely for the Benefits?

Steve has been offered a position with a start-up company, so he'd lose the benefits that come with his current job. Is losing the benefits a good move in exchange for a job he might enjoy more?

QUESTION: Steve in Houston is a software developer for a large company. He’s been offered a position with a start-up company, so he’d lose the benefits that come with his current job. From a stability standpoint, is losing the benefits a good move in exchange for a job he might enjoy more?

ANSWER: I would want there to be some pretty tremendous upside in terms of your income to offset the fact that you have to cover your own benefits yourself and that you’re taking the risk with this small business, because it could fold.

If you are a mobile software developer, you’re in high demand right now. I would hire three of them tomorrow. I’ve got them on the board here. You’re in high demand, and honestly, you’re probably worth more than $95,000 if you’re any good.

I would have to have some kind of thing that allows you to make $120,000 by making the move. Maybe it could be participating in profits that you help bring in or something. You’re taking risk, and you’re taking on the benefits package.

I just think if you’re in a major metro area, you’re worth more than $95,000 in this current environment if you know your stuff. If I’m you, yeah, I would do that, but I’d want some upside. Eighty-five is fine, no benefits is fine, better quality of life being near the family is fine, but there needs to be an upside where you participate in profits that you bring in to get you up to $120,000. Because I don’t want you going up there, them paying you $85,000, you bring them in $500,000 or $1 million in profit next year, and you get none of it.

We all work with people we like and who are our friends, but we have to get our work done. The actual implementation of the job requires that you’re competent, you’re on time, you’re reasonable to work with, and that they don’t have unreasonable expectations because of the friendship and you don’t have unreasonable expectations that are unprofessional because of the friendship. Wear your professional hat at work, and they wear their professional hat at work. But they don’t need to be saying stuff like, “If you were a real friend, you’d work until midnight.” You don’t need to say, “Well, I don’t need to come in until 9:30 or 10:00 because you’re my friend.” That’s nepotism and crap. You’ve just got to be professional and efficient and productive and bring it. You need to expect professionalism from them in your business relationship, and you probably need to say that out loud. That’s the danger of hiring family or friends. Everybody thinks they get a pass.

I would just say, “It’s dangerous for friends to work together. Friendships end on this kind of thing, so I’m going to treat you guys as if you’re my employer because you are, and I’m going to be professional and productive and efficient. I’m going to have an expectation of leadership and vision for this company and communication like I would from any leadership team. In addition to that, we’re friends. It’s not because we’re friends that any of us can be half-butts in our execution of our given roles.” You just need to say that out loud.

I’ve brought plenty of friends to work on my team, and it’s worked out very well. I’ve had friends leave my team, and it’s worked out fine. I had a good friend leave the other day who I’ve been friends with 20 years. It was fine. We’re still good friends and no weirdness. It was a little bit weird, but it’s just part of life. We’re not mad. He’s not mad. Our friendship didn’t end. It’s not damaged. That’s part of being professional about it and being clear and plain and having a lot of clarity.

As far as your income goes, since you’re giving up income and benefits, then you need to negotiate some kind of a share of profits going forward to offset that. If I can bring some extra money into this place, I need to get some of that to get me up in the hundreds somewhere. How could we do that? How could you feel good about that? I don’t want to take money you’re already making, but if you can increase the revenues of this organization with my services, then all I’m asking you to do is share some of that with me to offset the fact I’m taking a pay cut to take this job. I think that’s a reasonable thing for that small business owner. I think it’s a reasonable thing for you. If you can negotiate that part of it, I’d do the deal. I don’t see anything holding you back.

If you get up there and you kind of get the feeling that there’s a weird vibe because of the friendship—like you owe them something or that kind of thing—then you just don’t want to be in a situation like that. That’s where family and friends in business can cause problems. But it doesn’t have to be a problem. I’m not asking you to be a partner. I’m just asking you to share some of the profits as we go forward.