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Difficult choice...

Vlavoie

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Jan 8, 2013
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Hi guys,

I'm currently 23 years old and need some advice.

I'm starting to invest in real estate and my plan is to retire in 10 years with it.

Right now I'm working at a sales job that I'm not passionate about. It's a 100% commission B2C, high volume, fast sales cycle, and I'm very good at it. On a very good week I can make around 3.5k and on a bad week around 800-1k. Most of the time I make around 2k/week and will make around 100k this year, which for my age is very good. My plan was to do this short term, buy some real estate and get out.

But, I just received a sales job offer in a tech start up. The technology is very promising and they grow very fast. This company is 1.5 years old, they have 25 employees and just received a 10M$ first round funding. Next year they plan to have 200 employees. The salary is 55k base + 12k performance bonus and the possibility to have stock options. If I choose this, my real estate business will grow a slower, but I'm very interested in the stock options with this kind of growth.

So I'm wondering, what do you guys think about this? Should I continue like I am or choose the start up?

Thank you very much in advance.
 

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Merging Left

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I wouldn't bank on stock options to be worth anything. There's a bazillion "promising" tech startups that fizzle out. $10M is great for a first round, but that's pennies in the tech space. They'll burn through that faster than you can imagine.

$55k + $12k performance bonus means your max salary at this place is 67k. Are you prepared to lose over $30k/year? That's a down payment right there.

What's more important to you? To put in your time now, work your a$$ off for 10 years, then not have to answer to anyone? Or would you prefer to work in an exciting environment for, say, 20 years with people you like, and then not have to answer to anyone?

It depends on what your ultimate goal is, what your ideal timeline is, and what you're comfortable sacrificing (retire quicker but work harder vs. enjoy work and retire later).
 

JScott

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Have the founders/owners of the tech company ever had an exit before? If yes, it may be worth exploring. If no, chances are low that you'll make any money on the options.
Long story short, the best predictor of the value of employee options is the previous track record of the founders.
 

Ernman

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What if you decision was framed as follows:

Would you accept a 100% chance to lose $30K of income for a 10% (at best) chance of gaining something of an undetermined future value?

Stick with your plan unless you get a really good offer somewhere that will teach you something and help you on your path.

...in my humble opinion.
 

Bekit

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If your current job is something you're not passionate about, and the new job opportunity does interest you, is there any reason why you can't negotiate the salary?

If you're good at sales in your current position, then you'll be good at sales anywhere (and you'll be making THEM a lot more money than your salary is costing them) (and if you're good at selling a thing you're NOT passionate about, you'll be that much better at selling a thing you believe in and are interested in).

Honestly, $55K capped at $67K seems pretty low for your max earning potential. Why can't you be rewarded with extra commissions beyond the $12k? This doesn't make sense to me.

So is there room for you to say, "Look, I'm really interested in this position, and I believe that I can really knock the ball out of the park for business growth this year. Based on my track record of __ [Show them data from all your biggest weeks], I would be leaving a lot of money behind to make this switch. Would it be ridiculous for you to make me a more tempting offer?"

Look up Chris Voss if you want insight into negotiation techniques. Good stuff.
 

Ernman

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Sorry if it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but here's another consideration. Will you learn skills in the lower paying job that could be of value to you down the Fast Lane road? Then maybe it makes sense to switch - assuming you can absorb the lower income.
 

Ernman

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Look up Chris Voss if you want insight into negotiation techniques. Good stuff.
I'm listening to his book, Never Split the Difference, right now. Fantastic book - I'll definitely need the hardcopy for future reference.
 

Vlavoie

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Thanks everyone for your inputs.

The owner is a serial entrepreneur and has a very good track record for 20+ years, but never went public with any of his company. I'd definitely would like to work with him.

I already tried to negotiate my salary, but they won't move. The bonus is 4 quarterly bonus of 3k$ if you hit the sales target. I really don't know why they work like that, it's indeed a strange structure.

I would also definitely learn a lot more than in my current position.

One of the last thing with my current job is that I'm self employed and get paid commission through an incorporation (similar to an LLC in Canada). I live in Canada and we get a lot of taxes, so with this structure, I pay a lot less than if I receive a salary. But it comes with a drawback, it's also a lot harder to get qualified for a mortgage even if it's a multi-family with income.

The book ''Never Split the Difference'' is awesome, already read it twice !
 

RazorCut

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There was an interesting write up I read recently on Reddit (credit goes to @whiz who pointed it out) entitled:

Why didn't I get any money from my startup? - A guide to Liquidation Preferences and Cap Tables

This is well worth a read as a potential employee of a startup where you hope to leverage your position on the back end through stock options.

Even if all seems to go well your stock options can still end up worthless. So better to consider them a pot of gold at the end of a non-existent rainbow and not let anyone kid you into thinking they are more than that. Especially if the company is dangling them as an incentive to work for them for less than you are worth.

I know you said the founder is an experienced entrepreneur but it is worth bearing in mind.
 

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JScott

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The owner is a serial entrepreneur and has a very good track record for 20+ years, but never went public with any of his company.
Going public is only one alternative for options to be worth anything. How many of his companies have been bought? How many have taken a private equity infusion? How many have merged with other companies?
 

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