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Is my startup a sinking ship in disguise?

I have been at my current startup for just under a year. Took a base cut + no shares/options/whatever else people call 'em these days. Was promised as growth came, so would pay increase and shares/options. I was one of the first 50 and 2nd person in sales. Since then, we've grown to close to 90 employees. Achieved a series A round and yet... nothing. Well, outside of 3 new comp plans I guess.


Marketing is a revolving door, 1 in 1 out. We cannot seem to keep anyone on there for more than 2-3 months OR the BDR team for that matter. 2 core components to sales (yes, I am giving marketing some credit)


My main concern is as we the sales team continue to build this out, and achieve more goals; when should I see the writing on the wall that they really don't care about us...(low balling bases and/or raises, no shares/options, etc.) Using us as pawns in their game of chess, and if something happens along the lines of an acquisition, we're all just dust in the wind. Except the executive team.


Am I out of line for feeling this way?

โ˜๏ธ Software Tech
โœŒ๏ธ Growing Pains
๐Ÿ’†โ€โ™‚ Mindset
25
poweredbycaffeine
WR Lieutenant
+10
Bean Juice Drinker | Sales Savant
More red flags than F1's 2020 Tuscan GP race.

I'd start working on finding a new opportunity. I've been in your shoes, and trust me, the soles are about to blow through and Mom & Dad will never replace them for you.ย 

Left my last role after leadership reneging not once, but twice, on my base increase after two successive promotions and my team hauling in two of the largest deals in company history. They see you as an asset, which is what we are, and they'll pay the lowest dollar value to keep that asset in operation.
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
This was super insightful stuff here @poweredbycaffeineย 

It's tough b/c they preach that we're not assets and we're people first! But I sometimes smirk when I hear that and see right through it all
poweredbycaffeine
WR Lieutenant
+10
Bean Juice Drinker | Sales Savant
Once you see yourself as an asset then it becomes much easier. I've seen a VP fire his brother before because the CEO said to cut 10% of their team. It's (truly) just business.
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funcoupons
WR Officer
+12
that's queen coups to u
No, I think a year is enough to get a good feel for how the company is being run and where their priorities lay. I'd be looking for a better opportunity.
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
I just hate the feeling of jumping and having a year (if that) on the resume here. I know there is something said for loyalty but dang... do I start to look like part pf the problem if the ship goes down and I stayed too long?ย 
funcoupons
WR Officer
+12
that's queen coups to u
A year is not that bad...when you interview you can explain why you left (incorrect expectations of compensation were set.)

Loyalty is for friends and family, not business.
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Salespreuner
Big Shot
+11
Regional Sales Director
Would completely agree and do the same for sure.ย 
SiliconBBQ
Politicker
+4
The Metal Rooster
left a start-up after about a year because of a similar situation. they'd gotten so focused on the funding they missed out on running the business well, esp. with regards to sales, marketing and product
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
@SiliconBBQย I feel like this is all too common and just shouldn't be?ย 
Chep
WR Officer
+10
Business Development Team Lead
Churn rate is usually a really good indicator for the long term growth of a company and based on what I'm seeing here I would jump ship or at least start looking for other opportunitiesย 
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
@Chepย yeah,ย  I can count on 2 hands the amount of marketing folks we've had leave since I have started.. that is super concerning imo

I need more hands + feet to count the total amount company wide.ย 
DrunkZuko
Contributor
+1
Account Executive
I'd be curious to know if leadership is sharing performance #s with the team. Failing (especially failing fast) is a characteristic of most startups. If leadership is denying that there is anything wrong or simply aren't sharing how the business is doing I would be seriously concerned.

A few years back I worked at a 20 person startup that seemed to be doing well. About 10 months into the role, the CEO sat us down, went over the numbers, admitted the issues, and laid out realistic expectations (which included a potential downsizing or sale of the business). The business eventually sold for drastically less than valued when I came in.

At the end of the day, VCs typically invest in the team and their vision (assuming there is some proof of market relevancy). If there seems to be no direction from leadership and everyone is lost in the woods then I would say it's doomed to fail.ย 
avocadobegood
Executive
+9
MM Account Executive
what's the customer churn rate, do your deals deploy?

ability or inability to recognize revenue sold at that stage is probably more critical than internal turnover / looks to equity in my opion.

there are a lot of red flags, and i would work on finding mentorship or someone you trust in management to keep a pipeline on what's going on at the company - although it'd be nice to be on a soon to IPO rocketship that gives out equity b/c they care, you do need to earn that equity through process and networking a little bit as well, unfortunately - while still warming up / starting to look for an exit plan.

See the horizon and prepare for the possibility but don't necessarily jump off the cliff just yet, i would say.
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
@avocadobegoodย customer churn rate isn't terrible actually. Our service really does work wonders for clients. This was very insightful from you though. Thank you!ย 
ma
marketingsucks
Major Accounts
poweredbycaffeine nailed it, been in your situation as well and it's unfortunate but you have to take a long view of the company's trajectory here.ย  If you're in Series A and the company is already withholding shares there is a slim chance that this changes as additional funding is taken on.ย  Often times in early stage companies the founders/angel investors have a complex about how valuable the market perceives the technology and hence places a lower value on those that put in the work to sell said solution to the market.ย  Unfortunately no solution sells itself, however it sounds like your company is going to need to learn that lesson the hard way after losing sales people like yourself to better opportunities.ย ย 
Lumbergh
Politicker
+3
Sr Account Exec
So much this...companies run by engineers often think they can be 'product led' from a sales perspective but don't understand a thing about the complexity of sales or managing customer expectations.ย  Instead they are spending time designing and shipping shiny nerdy whiz bang very cool technical shit that people don't buy and don't really care about...

Role based access, SSO integration, reporting--this is all boring crap engineers don't want to work on but is table stakes for so many enterprise and even mid-market companies to buy on.ย ย 
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
I feel this... shit might hit the fan soon
salesteamsix
Fire Starter
+1
Head of Sales
It's hard to say without knowing the specifics. But I worked at a startup with all those same red flags, and it went under. Take it for what you will, but I would jump ship as soon as you can. Especially if you feel like you are no longer growing or have the ability to grow.ย 

Employers often make it seem like you are in this together, but when shit hits the fan, you are the one losing your job, not them.ย 


Beans
Politicker
+9
Account Executive
Get out.

ASAP.
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
feels like it's inevitableย 
goose
Politicker
+12
Sales Executive
It's not popular but I think you just explained the current SaaS marketplace. ย Pawns in their chess game...
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
**writes a book and creates a HBO series on it
Lumbergh
Politicker
+3
Sr Account Exec
There's a whole show about it called Silicon Valley - I assume you've seen it but if not, definitely watch it.ย  Lots of truth in that hilarious show
stanrym
Valued Contributor
+5
CEO
I'm sure you have thought about this, but what does your boss say? I'd be upfront with her/him and tell them what do you want. It should be a problem if you're killing it.
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
@stanrym - killing it or not, that doesn't help the marketing and BDR turnover issues along with the broken promises and low balling of payouts. I mean, is he more open and transparent with me, yes. But he can only do but so much
Sandbagger31
Contributor
+3
Key Accounts Manager
thats a clear sign they are only positioning themselves to be acquired. keep costs low, keep positions filled and dont care by who. I would run, or at least briskly walk out.
Fa
Fancy
Sales Engineer
I don't see any reason to stay. I would say a lower salary in exchange for equity, or great comp with no equity. How are you justifying the added risk you are taking on? Risk is a cost that needs to be considered, and compensated for.

Even with equity, it's still just a promise of something good with growth, but at least you have the paper.ย 
thegrinch
Politicker
+7
SDR
My rule of thumb is that if you to think about it then it probably is.ย 
RandomPaperclip
Valued Contributor
+4
Sr. AE
yeah.. this is almost always true. Don't 2nd guess your gut
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