The Swan on a Lake

There is a quote I’ve always liked, “It’s like a swan on a lake. On the surface everything is calm but underneath the webbed feet are paddling furiously!” While this is equally true of many things it’s always seems to be most apt when I think about the start-ups I’ve been lucky enough to work at.

The sales team and management doing the VC road-shows make the company appear to be a stable, healthy environment where everything is working fine and nothing un-expected arises on a daily basis. Then you get the actual staff who are beavering away like mad to not only take what they already have and make it ready for closer inspection but also franticly building to bring on board the next big customer.

I let myself get fooled by the apparent calm and control of two companies recently and I’m posting this as a reminder to myself, and hopefully a pointer to others; a small company is very rarely as calm and tranquil as it first appears. It’s well worth spending some time talking to the staff to get the macro view; it could stop you making a bad employment decision.

On the upside this means you’ll never get bored and if you enjoy a challenge, I personally love new technologies, then these can be among the best places to work. They just ain’t the most safe or sane environments for certain types of people.