Breaking Down Management in a Start Up, who has the upside and how to get some.

In any medium sized company, the Organisational Structure is roughly the same. Bigger and smaller companies have more or less members of each group.  While everyone works hard to make a startup company successful, only a handful of people will actually realise substatial financial upside should there be an liquidity event. Senior Management: 3 - 5 people - This are the key stake holders.  The Founders, the Officers, the People who stand to make Millions if there is an exit event such as IPO or Accusation.  These are the people running the company, they seldom have much connection with the details of how the business operates... they are too busy running the company.

Middle Management: 30 - 50 people - These are the people running the business.  Directors of departments who moving forward initiatives, lead large teas of people and generally slaying dragons.  Less than 10% of all Middle Management will ever be considered for a Senior Management role.  These people stand to gain a Million or less if there is an exit event such as IPO or Accusation.

Managers: 300 - 500 people - These are the workhorses of the business.  General or Department Managers who are responsible for executing Middle Managements initiatives. These people deal with the bulk of the business's problems, customers and day to day activities.  It generally sucks to be a Manager and any =one in this position should be pushing and fighting to be promoted to the next level.    Less than 20% of all Managers will ever be considered for a Middle Management role. If you Middle Manager is one of the 90% who are going nowhere, it may be best to transfer out of that department into one with better growth potential. These people stand to gain 100K or less if there is an exit event.

Staff: 3,000 - 5,000 people - You have to start somewhere.   Basic, routine and repetitive tasks for a low hourly wage sum up this role.  If you are fortunate you will work for an excellent Manager who is going to grow in the organization.  This will mean opportunity for you.  If your manager is one of the 80% who are going nowhere, best to transfer out of that department or consider another job.   You will be very lucky if you receive any upside from an Exit Event.

Everyone who starts at Staff has has the a chance to break into Senior Management, most of them will not.

Know the company culture. All companies promote based on the same two criteria: Performance and Politics.  Philosophically I believe the correct combination for a successful culture is: 80% Performance and 20% Politics (or soft skills).  Some organisations run on a 50/50 breakdown, some 20/80... identify this.  Have a look at your performance reviews, bonus criteria or the types of people who get promoted.  What a company tells you and how a company operates can be two different things.  Defer to the compensation structure to understand how an organization values performance.

More tips for breaking into Management:

  • Being good at Politics is extremely important to develop into Senior Management.  It is what sets you apart from the brilliant technicians.
  • When there is a dispute, rise above the detail and work towards the solution.
  • When at a meeting, ask everyone else's opinion.
  • Do not get involved in the squabbles, rise above them.