When writing about a start-up, where does one even start? I feel as if my job mirrors my life. Or maybe my life mirrors my job. Either way they seem to be headed down a similar path. My start-up is like my life post-graduation; new, exciting, fresh, difficult, independent, different… and a slow progression.
When strangers ask me about my job I simply reply “I work at an investment firm”. Well that’s a complete lie. But it usually shuts them up because really, what normal 20-something wants to talk about investment firms? I do, but I don’t think I’m normal.
When acquaintances ask me about my job I reply “I work at a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) start-up.” They always ask “What’s that?” Then I have to explain what an M&A firm does. (<– click the link if you are unsure what it is). And then the conversation ends. (Hence the reason I tell strangers I work at an investment firm. They don’t ask further questions.)
When my friends ask me about my job I reply “I am a founder of an M&A start-up firm that buys companies.” Which sounds so sexy, doesn’t it? They usually ask more questions and tell me how great my job sounds.
But let me break through the facade and enlighten you on what it’s really like to work at a start-up as a 23 year old female. Out of the 7 founders, I am the only woman at my company. Whenever they start talking about fishing and football my eyes glaze over. I am also the only member who is under the age of 50. Whenever someone has problems with their iphone, they hand it over to me.
I am basically a mix of an associate, research assistant, founder, secretary, assistant, receptionist, IT department, marketing professional, paralegal, website designer, PR specialist, office manager. My day includes anything from creating spreadsheets, to SEC filings, to accounting, to editing the website. I answer the phone when it rings and I bring coffee to the office when we have business meetings. But I also participate in all of the conference calls and identify the target companies. Here are some of the tasks I try to get accomplished because I think they are how you should start a start-up.
Legally I am listed as a founder of the company. But most times I am not treated like one. No one asks for my opinion or takes what I have to say very seriously. They let me listen in and participate in everything, which is a great learning experience for me, but I am expected to sit there quietly. Now, I am not the type of girl who sits quietly in the corner and keeps her opinions to herself. I am pretty direct with my ideas and I am not afraid to stick up for what I believe. But the situation I find myself in requires me to keep silent.
I rarely get credit or acknowledgement for what I do. People speak down to me all the time, assuming I am some young girl they hired to look pretty at the front desk. I work by myself for most of the day and I have no peers or co-workers to talk to or bounce ideas off of. After being at my job for 10 months, I have not gotten a pay raise (after multiple promises were made). Hell, I haven’t even gotten paid in a month and a half because my start-up ran out of money. [I don’t want to talk about it.]
But I know this is the sacrifice I have to make. I know its all a trade off. I know this is the road I need to go down if I want to be CEO one day. As hard as it is now to see the big picture, I know one day it will all be worth it. Everyone has to put their time in, right? No one starts at the top, they have to work (or in my situation crawl) their way to the top.
So depending on how you word it, my job either sounds interesting and unique or boring and degrading. I guess the saying is true, there are always two sides to every story. Depending on the day and mainly my mood, I might tell you one or the other.
I honestly love my job but most of the time I hate it.