Thursday, December 13, 2007

A "Real" Company Going Public

My company went public today. From where I sit, this really has more headaches than benefits for me.

First of all, some of the headaches: Because we are a "real" company now, we need to start doing things the right way. The problem is that we are only doing things a little bit right and that creates several problems. For instance, here is what happened with the project I'm starting on. Back in May or June, we came up with an approach for the project that involved three phases. Based on very little information, some folks came up with numbers for how much each phase would cost. These were total guesses that were pulled out of someone's hind quarters. Now it's six months later and the approach for phase 3 has us requiring a budget that is significantly bigger than someone's random number from May.

This is bad enough, but because we start working on these things way before they get approved, some things I'd like to cut have already been done and thus can't be cut. This leaves me having to cut pure muscle out of this product. This situation doesn't make anybody happy. Management didn't know or understand the cost increases as they happened. We didn't understand the budget ramifications of everything we planned to do (most of us are not budget people.) Nobody feels like they have enough information to make really good decisions.

Like a real company, we are trying to stick to a plan; unlike a real company, we have no clue about how to make a decent plan that can be adhered to. There are many other ways in which we are not really a real company, but are trying to act like one. I won't go into them here since I promised to avoid talking about my company. I am giving myself a pass for today since we went public.

Now for the meager benefits. The company has not communicated much about the IPO, so we all just learn about stuff from the Internet. In November, we learned that the strike price would be about $18. People with stock options did some quick calculations and said "yay." Later, it came out that there was a 5.1 for 1 reverse stock split. This means that someone with 5,000 shares of stock instead has about 980 shares. Of course the split had happened before the stock price was set, but the price had raised hopes for people. Now, a bunch of people who gave 7 years of their lives to this company are a bit underwhelmed. They shouldn't be, but such is human nature.

Some thoughts on all of this:
  • Don't count on getting rich from stock options even if you work your butt off and the company seems like a great idea. No matter what, it's a crap shoot. Owners and high-powered execs get big bucks in these situations. The rest of us rarely get the big bucks.
  • Don't bitch about "only" getting thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of free money just because you had dreams of hundreds of thousands.
  • If you are lucky, you can find a job that pays the bills AND is meaningful, satisfying, challenging, and gets you in contact with good people. Finding a job that also makes you rich is a bit much to ask.
The Day


jblocksom said...

"...unlike a real company, we have no clue about how to make a decent plan that can be adhered to..."

What in the world gave you the idea that real companies know how to make a decent plan, and then stick to it? I've worked for a lot of real companies, and pretty much none of them could do this.

reston kid said...

The more real companies I have worked for have at least made an effort to come up with a plan. Here, people throw out stupid, wild-ass guesses and say "this is just a SWAG, so don't sweat it." Then, the SWAG turns out to be etched in stone as our estimate and we are held to it. In my experience, other companies don't always make perfect plans, but at least they make an effort that is more than pulling a number out of someone's ... backside.