Taking one job only to take another
April 14, 2018 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Should I switch jobs now knowing I've got another job lined up in a month or two? Situational details inside.

Company A is a small company of less than 30 employees. I've worked for Company A for 2 years. Co-worker Mike has worked at Company A for over 10 years. Our customers love Mike and hate dealing with Company A's management. Mike is leaving Company A to start Company B as a direct competitor to Company A and has verbal agreements from a number of Company A's customers to take their business to Company B. Mike wants me to come work for him at Company B as the first employee on the payroll. He says he'll be ready to for me to start in 4 - 8 weeks once he gets all the red tape of starting a new business sorted out. I'm game, and I believe Mike has the work and customers lined up in order for us to be successful.

In the meantime, I have an interview with Company C this week, in an unrelated field, in a different nearby city. Assuming the interview goes well, should I take a job now with Company C knowing that unless something changes I'll be starting with Company B in a month or two?

As an additional, possibly irrelevant detail I'm very anxious to leave Company A because, following an accident, they have become incredibly hostile to me in the past couple of months. Otherwise I would just stick it out at Company A but I really don't want to. They would have fired me except for the fact that they are dreadfully understaffed as it is. Instead of outright dismissal they are writing me up (multiple times this month alone) for minuscule handbook violations while ignoring the same violations regularly committed by other favored employees. Anyway you slice it, I gotta leave Company A as soon as possible. Mike is aware of the situation and agrees that this is unfair and hostile.

Also I have never bounced around jobs like this so if there is any additional considerations I may be overlooking I welcome your insights.
posted by glonous keming to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would at least interview with Company C and see what it’s like there. It sounds like there is a risk that Mike’s launch will get bogged down by lawsuits from a frantic Company A when they see a chunk of their business disappear. Plus hiring processes can take a while, so even if Mike’s launch does go quickly and smoothly, there’s no guarantee that you would have started at Company C by the time he’s ready for you.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:45 PM on April 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Ever see a restaurant announce they're coming in "Spring 2017" and then they finally open 6 months later? Getting a business up and running has a lot of little foibles in it, so Mike's plan to be ready in 4-8 weeks is not a sure thing. You can take the job at C knowing that you don't know what will happen with Mike and his plans, and things go as planned leave later. If things don't go as planned, you're out of A and have a fallback by being at C already.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Have the interview with Company C. Get your resume out to as many places as possible. Do not count any chickens before they are safely in your bank account.

Mike has told you of his plans. You cannot be sure that he will not tell employee x that you’re his first hire and he’d like them to be his second. I’m sure you can imagine the badness that could cascade from that. Mike can’t guarantee for himself that you won’t flap your mouth to management about his plans.

Be cautious. Accept a reasonable job offer and get out of Company A as fast as you prudently can.
posted by bilabial at 1:05 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would go on the interview, but if I got a job offer, I'd have a serious conversation with Mike about how soon he could bring me on.

Would you have to move to this other city if you took the other job? I'd try to avoid changing jobs twice (and especially moving!) if things with Mike were really on track.

But it sounds like having two to three more weeks of information would be useful, so I'd pursue this opportunity for now.
posted by salvia at 1:26 PM on April 14, 2018

Never turn down a job that you haven't been offered yet.

Echoing lots of other people; how on his game is Mike when it comes to starting a new business? Is there a corporate bank account yet - is there a line of credit on it or does he have cash? Has he got his licenses lined up? Secured a lease somewhere, and know who all the relevant inspectors are that he needs signoffs from? Is he doing his own books/payroll/taxes or hiring a contractor to do that? Has the contract between him and you been reviewed by an employment lawyer? Has he lined up the relevant business liability insurance policies? Is Mike offering health benefits - has he lined up a provider yet? Is he hiring/contracting HR - will there be an employee handbook on the start date; if not, when?

4-8 weeks could easily be a few months or even never.

If company C does offer you a job starting immediately, how much training will you need before you're effective? How senior is the position - will it be very difficult for the company to find another hire? Also - even if company C offers you the job, the start date might not be immediate.

If company C offers you the job, you can always ask for a deferred start date as a condition of employment - if Mike isn't ready in 8 weeks, start with company C. This is a little bit skeezy to do especially if the company has some other suitable candidates and it looks like Mike's going to pull through.
posted by porpoise at 2:37 PM on April 14, 2018

Don't do anything based on assumption. You know the saying. Does Mike have any experience running a company? There's no guarantee Mike will be ready in 4-8 weeks and a lot of reasons to suppose it might take longer. You also don't have an offer from C so wait until you know exactly what that entails.

Granting, for the sake of argument, that C offers you a job, I think you have to consider how much your accepting and then bailing will hurt them. On the one hand you'd have barely begun so no great loss, but on the other you're basically causing them to waste a bunch of time training and orienting you only to have to start all over again. I think the most ethical thing to do is to say you have another (potential) job offer and ask C if they can wait until you know for sure about Mike's thing.
posted by axiom at 3:09 PM on April 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mike is leaving Company A to start Company B as a direct competitor to Company A and has verbal agreements from a number of Company A's customers to take their business to Company B. Mike wants me to come work for him at Company B as the first employee on the payroll. He says he'll be ready to for me to start in 4 - 8 weeks once he gets all the red tape of starting a new business sorted out.

I used to do small business accounting. This deal is not worth the multiple sheets of paper it isn't printed on.
These sorts of plans collapse regularly for a number of reasons, one of which is that even when everything is completely legit, it would not be shocking for him to be getting firmly-worded communication from Company A's legal representation as soon as the first customer leaves. And if Mike has never actually run a company, you have actually zero idea if he's going to be any better at it than Company A's management--he might be better at doing the actual work, but he might be substantially worse at actually getting vendors paid and invoicing done, for example.

I'd absolutely take the job at Company C, and not take the job at Company B until such time as you're really 100% sure that it looks solid, and even if it LOOKS solid, only if Mike is willing to pay you above-market to compensate for the risk. Not only could it take six months for him to get started, he might very well be out of business six months after that. Since it seems from your Ask history that your employment history has been kind of difficult, be risk-averse about this. Remember that you don't owe Mike anything if you get a more stable opportunity.
posted by Sequence at 4:07 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

The Mikes of this world get it off the launchpad maybe 30-50% of the time. I'd shoot for company C, and I would not join a startup unless I had some control and/or ownership of it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:48 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

The saying applies here: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
You need a job. You do not owe it to any employer to sit on your hands, letting your credit card balance spiral upward, while they get their ducks in line (yep, more poultry references).

Get out of Company A, take the job offered elsewhere that suits your abilities and future goals, and take a hard pass on "helping out" Mike and his new business. Look out for your own interests.
If you are on the fence about working for Mike, keep that to yourself. Forget you ever heard about it. Do not let this theoretical job offer be a factor in your current or future work environments, or it will be used against you.
And who knows? Mike may relocate to another part of the state, or sell to a partner (who has no verbal agreement with you). No matter what he said, Mike has no obligation to put your interests above his own.

Wish Mike the best, but don't put your career on the line. Sounds like counting his eggs before they've hatched (and they're not your eggs).
posted by TrishaU at 7:04 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

> your employment history has been kind of difficult

it me

I appreciate all the thoughtful responses and will take this all to heart going forward. Thank you all. I do have a follow-up question based on some of your responses.

You are not my lawyer and I am not seeking legal advice. I am merely naive and curious now about what potential legal issues could arise for Mike in doing what I described above. As far as I know there is no non-compete clause in any of the paperwork we signed for employment. Lacking that, I don't quite understand what Company A could do if a customer were to quit doing business with them and start doing business with Company B. If anyone feels like talking a little bit about what legal challenges could be made, please be my guest.
posted by glonous keming at 7:44 PM on April 14, 2018

IANAAL, but there is such a thing as tortious interference with contractual relations. Essentially, Company A argues that Mike induced Client X to break their contract with Company A. Even if there is no contractual relationship, there is also interference with business relations which basically requires A to show that there was a preexisting business relationship with X that was economically beneficial and expected to continue (until Mike intervened). Non-compete clauses may also very well be present without your knowledge and would make legal action easier.

It's important to note too that A doesn't have to take a court case to conclusion in order to "win" -- legal costs alone can easily sink a fledgling company basically funded and run by a single person or small group. All that A has to do is make it cost too much to fight.
posted by axiom at 1:02 PM on April 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

The situation with Company B sounds way too tenuous for you to be making firm plans around it. Any number of things could happen to delay that opportunity or cause it to fall through entirely.

Interview with Company C. In fact, apply to Companies D, E, and F while you're at it. Don't mention Company B as it's currently not relevant. Concentrate on getting out of Company A and into a better job. Then, if and when you get a firm, written employment offer from Company B which looks better than what you're getting at Company C, you just tell the folks at Company C "Hey, an opportunity has come up for me that's just way too good to pass up. I'm sorry to be leaving so soon, but there's no way I can pass on this offer."

Make sure Company B's offer really is that good, though. New companies are very unstable and you should be compensated commensurate with the risk that you'd be taking in tying your livelihood to a company that may not exist in a year's time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:48 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mike is leaving Company A to start Company B as a direct competitor to Company A and has verbal agreements from a number of Company A's customers to take their business to Company B.

Although I have spent way too much time trying to decipher "IANAAL," axiom is correct.

Another issue is that Mike has misused Company A's proprietary information (its customer list) to target his sales prospects.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:03 AM on April 16, 2018

" I Am Not An Attorney/Lawyer"
posted by axiom at 8:02 PM on April 16, 2018

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