What should I be when my company grows up?
July 16, 2008 12:01 PM   Subscribe

What do I want my actual position with a start-up to be when it becomes a more structured company?

So I work for a software start-up that is growing and getting funding. My boss wants to know what I would like my actual position to be when we grow up in probably 3-6 months.

Currently I handle some marketing as well as other more business processes. At the moment the business side of the company is only two of us.

I can passably create things such as project plans and communications plans but I am not that great at it and do not enjoy such tasks.

I am great at, and enjoy, defining the brand and dealing with larger strategic issues such as new markets we might want to explore.

I have worked in consulting in the past developing new product and positioning. Generally anything that involves throwing out ideas and creation I am rather good at.

The problem is I am not very good at the organization or math. While I am getting my MBA from a great school I struggled through classes such as Stats and Accounting while doing extremely well in Negotiations, Leadership, etc. I am much more strategic than tactical.

I want to make sure I don't get pushed to the sidelines when it comes to actually running the company. I still want to be involved in large decisions and keep a position of power in the company as it grows...especially once we have a board and such.

So what should this guy with a bunch of crazy ideas be to become more legit?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total)
I can passably create things such as project plans and communications plans but I am not that great at it and do not enjoy such tasks.

I am great at, and enjoy, defining the brand and dealing with larger strategic issues such as new markets we might want to explore.

Developing project plans and comms plans are tough, but are the building blocks of your position. These are transferable skills that you must master in order to truly succeed at defining branding and dealing with larger strategic issues.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:30 PM on July 16, 2008

Sounds like you would do well in a business development role.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2008

It's funny that it's hard to describe - I started a business with a guy a few years ago, and while most people in our company have pretty well-defined roles, we're always looking at him and wondering what, exactly, he does. It's obvious that he does SOMETHING, and it's a very important something, but it's so intangible. Here are the key things I think he does:

1. He reads a lot in disparate domains, and sees the synthesis of ideas.
2. He meets lots of people in different venues.
3. He is very good at reading people and seems to know intuitively what their motivations are.
4. He is fast at picking up the buzzwords in an industry and seems to be able to capitalize on them.
5. He's a great "convincer" - not exactly the same as a sales guy, but works in a similar way - convincing people to buy our product or to stay with our product when they are unhappy.
6. He seems to track company morale well and knows when to push and when to back off. Often I don't know that I'm feeling discouraged until he asks me "how are you feeling?" and then I realize, gee, I'm feeling frustrated or burned out. He seems to know even before I know.

Generally, when I describe his role to people, I put it in one of two ways - either it's his job to "stir the pot" or to "keep his nose to the wind". He makes a lot of stuff up- potential ideas for new products, directions, etc - but not entirely out of thin air but rather out of his intuition based on all the things I described above. Then he bounces ideas off of me for a reality check. From those ideas it's my job to sift through and decide what 10% of them are feasible in any given time frame, and I add a veneer of reality and structure on top of them. Then I pass off this veneer to other technical people who drill down through all the details. This model has worked pretty well for us. It's funny to think back, too, on some of the things he's said - sometimes he'll push me an idea that I think is absurd at first, but then it percolates a bit or some time passes, I realize that at least some kernel of it is doable, and it turns out to be a great addition to our product.

So I'm sorry I can't give a specific job title - but it IS a very important job function. One recommendation I'd make based on my own experience with my parter is that you need to realize early on that your skills are NOT those of a manager, and you should only play-act in that role for as long as it takes to hire someone really talented in that area. Your job is to be a dreamer and a thinker and more of a visionary, but someone else will have to do more of the implementation work.

Good luck!
posted by sherlockt at 12:49 PM on July 16, 2008

posted by rhizome at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2008

I too have had this opportunity to create my own label at work. It sounds like people are barking up the right tree. However, your title isn't going to keep you from being pushed to the sidelines; just because your title implies power doesn't mean that it will be gifted.

That being said, if you're going to have some direct reports, I'd probably roll with these:

Business Development Director
Vice President of Business Development
Manager of Corporate Planning
Business Development Analyst

If your position in the corporate structure is less defined and you/they'd prefer a title with less implied seniority, you can always roll with something like:

Business Analyst
Business Strategy Manager
Business Development Manager

Best of luck. Quick tip: pass on the Aerons.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 2:33 PM on July 16, 2008

posted by meta_eli at 6:07 PM on July 16, 2008

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