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The Good and Bad of Being a Company’s First Employee

October 2, 2015

While some might consider becoming a company’s first employee as a valuable business proposition offered to prove their talent and potential to the employer/CEO at the early stages of their career, while for many others taking a plunge to become company’s first employee is associated with risking their career.

There is wealth of information available for entrepreneurs looking forward to start their own business, however not many in-depth articles are provided for the curious job seeker to help decide if being the first employee of a company works in their favour or not.

Through this brief informative piece, we hope to guide you on how to make of the opportunity, as a first employee of a company, tackle challenges and minimise risks if you think this job role offered, is worth consideration to take the plunge. A walk through the good and bad will wipe the mental slate clean and help you seek clearer vision for a path to successful career.

The Good

  • You get more responsibility and credit for all your actions. You get noticed and small businesses allow you the power of increased autonomy, greater scope for professional career advancements and opportunities for skill growth. You get the much deserved credit when things go right, however when things go wrong you have to be prepared to take up responsibility for your actions and the blame.
  • You as an employee (if for a start-up) are involved with multiple aspects of the organisation and if you prove your talent and worth on the platform provided, you can soon scale up the ladder of success much quickly over your peers working for established companies.
  • If the company takes off well, you enjoy the perks of bragging to be the first employee of the company down the memory lane. This could also work in your favour financially over the long run (Think Equity!)
  • You will soon become a strong communicator – lucid, concise, crisp and clear with fundamentals of your company’s business to communicate it with the team, new joinees, clients and customers alike. It is important to clarify what your responsibilities are, before taking up the challenge.

See: 5 Steps to Get Set for Your First Day on a New Job

  • Always safeguard your workload on what can be accomplished in a week and how much you can handle in a day. Talk out with your manager about a detailed week outlay plan and tasks that are expected to be complete every day. You’ll have to communicate clearly with your boss/immediate manager about job responsibilities to maintain work-life balance. Be comfortable stepping back at times, if you think the workload will be too much for you to handle.
  • If you want to take up something challenging, crazy, risky and dangerous and love the thrill of exploring opportunity to shape up your own role, independent decision maker who is free to run and free to fall; then becoming the first employee of a start-up or a newly established company could possibly be the next big thing in your career.

The Bad

  • With added responsibility, does accompany fair share of risks as well. Without risk taking abilities you cannot seize a potential opportunity, hence these risks are unavoidable – both in terms of job security and financial independence as well. More often start-ups and small companies do not offer the salary to match increased workload.
  • It doesn’t matter how much you believe in a new company to be the first employee, it is always wiser to weigh on the financial implications, ramifications and the equity provided, before you quit your current job to move on to a newer one.
  • Your New Manager is the “New Manager”, which means if your boss or the founder decides to bring in a new manager, then he becomes your immediate superior. It doesn’t matter even if you’re the oldest and first employee of the company. Your boss/ founder is learning as well in the process of delegating responsibilities and managing people, he does not have to be an effective communicator either, so someday he could make up his mind to start delegating and hire a new manager. Herein you have no say; there are chances of you being hurt to not have got the deserved promotion.
  • If you are the only employee and there is no one to cover up for you in your absence, then calling in sick or taking few days off for a vacation will soon become a far-fetched dream. While you might be allowed some leeway in case of falling sick, when work pressure is manageable however if there is a product launch and you are sick, then being the only person on board can make you feel caught in a fix. It is great to be needed, but it is quite tough when your company is heavily reliant on you to be there at work every day irrespective of the personal and health challenges you face.
  • If you want to come in, show up, do your job during work hours and punch out on time, then being first employee of a company is not the job for you. Think Twice and Act Wise!

Also read: Evaluate Your Job Offer before Committing

Image credit: freestockphotos.biz

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