30 May 2019

Our Lead Consultant within consumer brands, Christine has noticed a trend in the number of roles she is working on with start-ups. She discusses the pros and cons for candidates of working in start-ups versus the traditional big businesses.


Working in consumer brand marketing recruitment, as I have for 10 years, it is interesting to watch the changing face of marketing within this area.


When I started, I was mainly working with global companies, recruiting brand managers, insights and innovation specialists to work on big brands. Then as the retailers became more powerful, marketing teams started focusing more towards the first point of contacts roles like Shopper and Category Management became king.


Then as ecommerce gained traction in the UK, the focus swung towards digital roles and particularly digital specialist roles like PPC, SEO, social, performance, CRM.


Now, interestingly, start-ups are everywhere.  And not just in tech.


Non-tech Start-ups


Innovation used to be in the hands of the big FMCG and Consumer Product companies, now individuals are taking their own ideas, developing the product, finding suppliers, creating packaging, working out distribution channels and using social media to gain traction.  Not all of them succeed but many do and either develop into bigger companies or end up selling their brand to one of the bigger food and beverage giants who get the product innovation without some of the associated risks.


So what are the Pros and Cons of working for a start-up?


Work Life Balance – often start-ups are founded by people fed up with the rat race who want to do their own thing so they are sympathetic to a flexible working environment.  But the reverse too can be true. Small teams get stretched quickly and you may find yourself packing boxes as well as developing the long term brand strategy.


Salary and Benefits – people will often trade-off salary to work in a start-up. The pleasure of getting involved in something new and exciting with the opportunity of a share option is tempting.  However, start-up salaries can be anywhere between 10 to 50% less than you would get in a similar role in a big corporation without the usual benefits like company car, bonus, healthcare, large pension contributions etc. and not everyone can afford to take a significant salary drop.


Job Descriptions – these are usually quite broad.  Start-ups often need someone with the experience of a Marketing Director in terms of writing a brand / business plan, doing their own research and insights, dealing with the supply chain, understanding pricing,  deal with retailers, etc. At the other end of the scale, they also need the ability to do their own social media content, press relations, customer problem solving and sometimes even buying the light bulbs for the office.


Length of tenure – unlike a traditional marketing job where you move into a role and then develop your career by moving into other roles, different brands within the same company or aim for the next promotion – start-ups may not succeed or may have the ultimate aim of being sold off within 3-5 years.  Whilst it shouldn’t be considered a short term gig though from the outset, once the main brand positioning and marketing plan is in place some start-ups often don’t need an expensive ‘Head of Marketing’ long term and you may find yourself recruiting a more junior team to replace you.  


Pace – start-ups can be notoriously fast paced.  You often have to adapt quickly and master new skills. You don’t have the time or the money to invest in expensive market research and much of what you do may be based on experience and gut instinct. But isn’t that part of the fun?


Is it worth it?


No two starts-ups are the same, but the common themes tend to be small teams, unusual hours, less benefits short term, and passionate individuals with a common focus.   


Longer term, you may get more job satisfaction, a bigger financial reward if you’re one of the lucky ones and you’ll gain some great skills to help you find your next role.


Finally, it can be an exciting privilege to work for a start-up especially if you love rolling your sleeves up and getting involved.  It will very likely take you out of your comfort zone and make you feel like you are back at the beginning of your career.


If you’re looking to make a change in your career and working within a start-up is of interest, give us a call today. We’ll do our very best to help.

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