I've been working two years at a startup that is about to go public. I enjoy working hard, but am starting to worry that I take it all too seriously. We are going through a very awkward stage of growth and there is much confusion about roles and responsibilities. Politics is rampant in what used to be a very team-oriented team. I find myself very angry and unmotivated. I want to make this work - any suggestions?
Congratulations for making it this far. It takes brains, guts, and a cornucopia of snack foods to take a business from wish to winner. It's a close call as to whether the trading room floor on the day of IPO or Vanity Fair's bash after the Academy Awards is more thrilling. After the awards you can sip champagne and dance new Latin steps in dresses made out of scarves. But at your own IPO, you are clearly a winner. Now we need to make sure you feel like one.
Secrets to a Smoother IPO
- Save mementos from the early days for future auction bonanza.
- Leave scooters in view, even though investors are no longer impressed.
- Everyone get used to wearing headphones.
- Spend more on everything.
- Start writing things down.
- Expect to fill out forms for things you used to just do.
- Send instant messages to coworkers on the other side of the cubicle wall instead of yelling.
- Be the same person you always were.
- Don't spend the money until you have it.
- Understand what your options are really worth, and when.
Your company is showing classic signs of becoming a Real Live Company. You've probably got more employees than guests at a supermodel's wedding. People three years out of college are no doubt managing divisions of people three years into college – but not for long. The prospect of imminent wealth is bringing out traits you haven't seen in your coworkers before. Suit-wearing newcomers from Dow-Jones companies are un-casually waltzing in at the last minute to share in the glory of something they didn't help create and treating you as if you were not fabulous at all. The lines of influence are being redrawn. And now that everyone has seen the S1, some people's stock options packages probably look extravagant compared to everyone else's. No wonder you are getting opening-day jitters.
Understand that if you have a new layer of management, it has probably been part of the plan since the days when vice presidents were sharing cubicles. New hires in the final push get hefty rewards, but they also increase the value of everyone's shares. No one is taking money off the table.
Second, as your company goes through its adolescence, ask yourself whether you are more of an entrepreneur or a company man (sic), and whether you're more Dow or NASDAQ. But wait until after the big day to act on the answer. The caviar at the party alone will be worth the wait.
Third, ask yourself if there are other reasons why you feel skittish. It can be an outrageously difficult adjustmenst when you have fabulousness thrust upon you. Success can be even harder to handle than failure, because to many people it comes as a gigantic surprise - even though they saw it coming. Imagine having your name called at the Oscars and not being in the audience to make your acceptance speech.
Wait it out. Enjoy the pleasure. Be true to yourself. Then double-check your vesting schedule as you consider your next move.