Stack OverflowWhen to say when with a startup company?
[+41] [35] EdgarVerona
[2009-01-06 18:11:34]
[ ethics small-business compensation ]

I've been a bit stressed out about this for a while, and figured I'd post here to see what other developers think.

I'm with a startup company... a very small one. In fact, it's just me, my boss, and his son. I'm the only Software Engineer, as our only other Engineer (understandably) left for a much better job at an established company. As the only Engineer, I'm our Architect, maintainer, QA, Tech Support (which gets REALLY frustrating when I'm trying to get actual development done), Web Admin, and DBA.

Been here for almost 5 years now, and I still don't have health insurance (I'm 27, but not in great shape physically... my wife is 25, and has some minor health problems stemming from a prior term in the military). I'm making $48,000 per year, which my family survives on but hasn't given us enough additional money to pay off my student loans, get our own health insurance, or anything like that.

The thing is, if I leave it pretty much means the death of the company and the unemployment of my boss and his son, who have given me what they can (the company can't actually even afford the $48,000 per year I'm getting right now), and even let me recently begin working remotely when I told them that I had to move out of town to help some of my friends in their business (which I now am on evenings and weekends... and no, they don't have money to pay me a salary at all =) ).

Anyways, I feel like I need to leave this company and seek one out that at least will provide health insurance (if not a pay raise... I need to get rid of these student loans before I can even think about starting to get more to pay for my wife to go back to school again)... but I feel like I am in an ethical dilemma because my leaving will mean the death of the company and unemployment for those currently in it, and I feel like they've tried as hard as they could to appease me when they could.

What I want to know (since I have no co-workers that I can ask) is: what would you do in this situation?

EDIT: Also, more information about the company. We've felt like we were on the "verge" of making it for the past three years, but despite that we can still count the number of customers we have on one hand. We are being strung around by a company that is promising that they can get us more customers, but they're basically using us for free tech support with that promise... which I've tried to tell my boss to no avail. We've never had money for marketing, and though we were approved by the SBA for loan backing, no one will give us an SBA business loan so we can actually do marketing. If this extra info helps. I'm sitting on the fence between thinking "this will never work" and "it'll work if we somehow got an SBA-backed loan".

EDIT 2: Someone was wondering if I have a stake in the company. I have an unwritten one. They have a verbal agreement with me that if we ever become profitable, we'd split it three ways... that was enticing at first, and I still feel like the company might make it, but my feeling that it will has lessened severely in the last year.


Okay, it looks like all that's needed to be said has been said. Thank you all again for your advice. I think, based on what everyone's said, I will:

Thank you all again, I really needed this input. Hopefully I'll be able to find something out here.

EDIT: It looks like I can't give the "answer" to multiple people, but if I could I would. There's been an aweful lot of extremely helpful advice here, and I deeply appreciate it.

If that stake in the company isn't in writing it's about worthless really. Enforcing a verbal contract would be tough. Did the owner say that in front of more than one person (I wouldn't count his son). I think your stake would have to be worth about $150k right now to make it worthwhile. - jcollum
It was just between him, me and his son... but I truly and honestly believe he is a man of his word and would follow through on it. Which is why the thought of leaving him is hard, because he is a good man... but I just can't get what I need from the company, and I don't think it will succeed. =( - EdgarVerona
Honesty and money are mutually exclusive, unfortunately. - Uri
Aye. This has definitely shown me the hard way that "if you build it, they will come" just isn't true. It's got to take money to make money. =( - EdgarVerona
Not really, but marketing is critical. Sounds like you have a huge marketing gap. Word of mouth is fine for handshake business, but if you have to look outside your geo for customers, you need marketing. - jcollum
Aye... our marketing budget is pretty much 0. =( If we ever got that SBA loan we were going to put most if it into advertising, but I don't think that's going to happen. =( - EdgarVerona
Hit the employment office at your school. They have a career counselor or something who can help you. Just the diversity of the things you've done are worth more than you know. You will be so happy out of this ... I can see the big grin and telling yourself "why did I put this off ..." - le dorfier
Just having someone to talk it through with will be huge. - le dorfier
True. I wonder... the college I graduated from is now a bit far away from me (since this move), but I wonder if I could go to the nearby college (UNH) and talk to their career counselors. I'll see if I can do that, it's a good plan! - EdgarVerona
And call your college - they may have a reciprocal deal, or be able to help you by phone. And get one or two people to talk to if you can - church group, school buddies, whatever. - le dorfier
Ah, good idea! I'll try that out. Thanks again dorfier! You've been a big help. And thank you all of you who have contributed in here too, I deeply appreciate the input you've given. - EdgarVerona
Please feel free to post here when this has worked itself through. You're on a lot of our minds now -- you can probably tell many of us have been there. I wish I knew anyone in NH. :D - le dorfier
Thanks =) I'll definitely follow-up in this thread when I find a new job. =) - EdgarVerona
That's good but you need to control yourself. You have to provide for your family or you may lose it. You are working for low pay at your current start up (and no doubt long hours) and are helping friends on the weekend for nothing. That's pretty bad!! Learn to say "No". Nicely but firmly. - Cervo
Helping a friend is hey let me cook dinner. Here I'll help you install your new deck. Giving away tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in work (and your pound of flesh) is a bit beyond helping your friend. - Cervo
That is true, as hard as it is to admit. I have an interview coming up in a few days... I told them upfront that I need at least 60k/year plus benefits, we'll see how it goes. I'm wondering if my boss somehow found out that I'm looking for a new job, because out of nowhere - EdgarVerona
he messaged me on Friday and told me that he feels we're going to be getting an SBA loan "very shortly" and that he's looking for health insurance for the company. I'm not sure whether to believe him or not. - EdgarVerona
I should also note that, during this conversation, he alluded to me becoming CTO of the company once it "took off", which I feel unqualified for and told him so... but that made me feel even more like they either know I'm looking, or they know I'm dissatisfied. I don't know what to think of it. - EdgarVerona
I guess I'm technically CTO right now given everything I do in the company (making all of the technical decisions, design, etc... kind of), but that seems like quite a big... jump. - EdgarVerona
(2) A quick update... After several months of back and forth, some more promises and then me starting to look for another job in earnest, I've found a new position. I feel relieved... still guilty for leaving, but relieved. After a lot of thought, I think that my guilt is based more in codependency than reality... so I have to push it to the back of my mind as I put my foot down. Thank you all for your responses, I really appreciate the help you've given more than I can express here in a simple comment thread. - EdgarVerona
so... what are/were you working on? is there a site we can go and have a look? - Assembler
[+32] [2009-01-06 18:15:13] Brian Knoblauch [ACCEPTED]

Sit down and talk it out with them. While they may not be able to afford to keep you, it may be possible to work out a transition plan for them to get someone else in to fill your place.

The transition idea is a good one. God, it's going to be a hard discussion to have with them. But it is one I need to have... I'm not getting any younger. Maybe if they can find a replacement it won't mean the end for them... aye. - EdgarVerona
This is the best advice, I had to pull out of a dead-end project a while back and was able to help the client find a replacement and help train that person. In the end, we were all happy with the result. - madcolor
I disagree. You might give them extra notice when you find something new, but letting them know beforehand is a bad idea. They might just throw in the towel at that point, and then you'll be left without a job, trying to support your family. - Tom Moseley
Ack, I hadn't thought of that... that would really be bad. - EdgarVerona
It's a tough spot you're in... I think we all feel for ya. - Jeffrey
I'd revise my comment.. Yes, Tom has it.. Get another gig lined up first! - madcolor
Okay, I'll look around for sure then, and see if I can find something lined up. Maybe I can offer to work with them on weekends for free to train a replacement once I find my new job or something. I have almost nothing of worth to my name, so I can't afford to be unemployed for sure. - EdgarVerona
Only you know how much your risk tolerance as and only you know them well enough to decide exactly how to do it. However, if they've been as good to you as it sounds, I wouldn't dismiss talking to them first out of hand. - Brian Knoblauch
You can do some networking looking for a replacement while looking for your future opportunity. Perhaps you'll find someone in a bigger company that would prefer a startup and you could affect a "swap" or alternate position in their company. In any event work out some overlap for knowledge transfer. - Turnkey
They have been good to me. I mean, when it comes to non-monetary benefits they've always been there... even with this move. It's that kind of thing that makes it hurt to leave. I will have to consider what to do. - EdgarVerona
Why would you ever work for them for free, even on weekends? It's a business, not a charity. - DrJokepu
@DrJokepu - If you have to ask the question, you'll never understand... - Brian Knoblauch
@Brian: I pretty much understand since I've been to a very similar situation. The only difference was that while I wasn't exactly underpaid, that job did not offer me enough opportunities so I had to leave. I gave them 6 months notice, found & trained my successor, but never worked for free, - DrJokepu
Not forever, but I definitely want to help them on weekends for a while. I feel like I owe them that, though I can't put in words exactly why. I feel like they've tried their best to give me what they could... it just wasn't enough, which I feel bad about. =( - EdgarVerona
I'd help them but at least get something in writing that pays you some minimum rate contingent on a new sale, or something. Anything they get for free is too easy to abuse. - le dorfier
EdgarVerona: You're a good guy and you deserve better. If you want to help them for a while, go for it, but I think you should ask for at least a symbolic fee otherwise you will go on helping them forever. That's what I did, and in the end, the my successor's fresh blood served them well. - DrJokepu
They need to face the consequences of some of the decisions they are making by continuing as well. - le dorfier
I bet the old man is trying to prove something to his son. I can't say for sure, but it sounds like a classic case. - le dorfier
That could be, on all counts. I really can't thank you guys enough for talking through all this with me. I've got a lot to think about. (Also, you may be right about the "proving something to his son" thing, I'm not sure but that could be =) ) - EdgarVerona
You or the world, you have to come first eventually... right? - David
[+27] [2009-01-06 18:17:53] jcollum

If the company has been operating for 5 years and can't afford to pay you at least 75k in salary for all the stuff you're doing, then the company won't die because you leave, it's already dying. You'll just be putting the last nail in the coffin.

Keep in mind that you are in business as well. You've been operating at a loss essentially for several years. For what? Do you have a stake in the company? Didn't say that so I'd say no.

I'd have left 2 years ago. Even if they pitched in $150 a month in health-care costs, you're still losing a lot of money.

Aye... the cheapest health care plan I can get for us (an HSA) is $100/person, and I'd never be able to afford the 2700 dollar "ceiling amount" that the HSA plan has before it kicks in should something actually happen. They did say I have a stake in the company, I should put that in the notes. - EdgarVerona
[+18] [2009-01-06 21:03:47] Jas Panesar

My Beliefs on startups, either gleaned or painfully learnt that I use to assess most anything:

  • ACTIVITY VS. RESULTS: In startups, do not confuse activity with results. Do not confuse progress with results either.

  • PROFIT IS BLOOD: Profitability and regular cashflow is the blood flow of your startup. Being able to survive is an accomplishment but a small one. Growth is the true goal.

  • STARTUPS ARE ABOUT VALUE Every thought, action, person, feature, should be thought of in terms of value. Seems obvious, but we see the gap between user wants and what software delivers.

  • EVERYONE SHOULD GIVE VALUE Everyone must contribute value that measurably and consistently brings results in a direction everyone wants to go. If someone isn't working as hard as you in their area they are not helping.

  • 1+1 SHOULD ALWAYS EQUAL 11.: When involved with others, synergies must magnify greater than the sum of people. If you do not have a great advantage by coming together chances are things may fall under their own weight if things really take off.

  • GET AND STAY ON THE SAME PAGE: People's priorities change. Ensure everyone can be committed to the same game plan (including R&D if that's where you're at) for the same amount of time and effort everyone is. Talk early, Talk often.

  • HEALTH OF A BUSINESS IS THE # OF NEW CUSTOMERS: The health of a business can be quickly determined by the number, frequency and size of new customers + regular orders.

Complete speculation:

This sounds to me a case of you doing the majority of the work in the business. The idea could be bad, or the business skills you need around you (sales and marketing) to make this product successful simply aren't there with your Boss and his son.

Based on that, would you be okay to continue working here if there was growth and results happening at your current salary?

1) Are they doing this full time like you are? If not, how is a full time effort being delivered to sales and marketing to ensure success of your hard work?

2) If they are doing this full time and not getting results, you should take that into consideration.

3) It might be enough when you start having doubts. Unless there is something dramatic that is different, you will keep getting what you have been getting if everyone keeps doing what they have been doing. If you're in a situation where you love the project and it's not getting anywhere, maybe you can still enjoy it and take a lesser role.

4) If you decide to leave, explain to them that you care about them and the project. Clearly outline the needs (it doesn't seem to be just money) in your family that you don't want to try and extract from them to hurt them. Offer to keep developing for 4-6 months either full time, or gradually becoming part time to cross train the next guy. Only agree to do so with a very clear transition plan. You may want to use this time to get that 1/3rd of the company that you're owed, if you are owed it. Owning something of nothing is one thing, but if it takes off you do have sweat equity that should be recognized (even if it's profit sharing) if it has been agreed to.

5) Would they drop you if it was no longer financially viable for them? What kind of explanations would you be given if it happened?

All the best. It's brave to take a risk and you can always keep the positive lesson from anything.

These are good questions... I would be okay working there if we were getting results, but definitely not at my current salary. 1) They are doing it full time, and have come up with pretty much nothing in terms of end result sales. - EdgarVerona
5) I'm not certain... maybe. I don't know for sure. Thank you for your advice! I am grateful. It definitely gives me more to think about (which in this case is good =) ) - EdgarVerona
Glad it was of some use, I have been in one too many startups like this :) #1) Maybe they forgot to develop their sales/marketing skills like your developing programming talents.. #5) chances are you'd get a heartfelt apology out of nowhere.. - Jas Panesar
Good luck though on everything. Never a bad time when you increase your understanding of dealing with a particular type of situation. - Jas Panesar
Thanks, it was definitely helpful. =) I definitely think they didn't develop their sales and marketing skills, that's for sure. I think we built a pretty good product... as well as some pretty good services... but on average we've gained one customer a year, which is horrible. =( - EdgarVerona
+1 for sheer thoroughness - jcollum
Ballsy. Cold. Very Real. - Assembler
[+8] [2009-01-06 18:14:10] Jeffrey


When it comes down to it, you're deciding between the welfare of your family or your boss' family. It sucks, but there's really only one way to come down on it.

That is true, which is why I'm even considering leaving... I can't wish for health insurance, I need it. The "let them know so they can get a replacement" idea others have said seems like a good one. I just have to man up and have this conversation. - EdgarVerona
[+7] [2009-01-06 18:14:26] Ben

I'd probably feel terrible about it, but I'd leave. My advice would be to talk to your employer about your feelings. Explain you'd really like to leave, but maybe offer to give them a lot of notice -- a few months, maybe -- while you find another job and they find someone to replace you (if they can). That way you can help train your replacement (fun!) and hopefully they can ease your workload a bit for the final few months. This will also mean they'll be more flexible about you going for job interviews.

Aye, I do think I need to talk with him. I've kind of hinted to them before... I told them that I needed health insurance by the end of the year about 6 months ago, but when I asked again they said I should ask in February. I may need to be more direct in the conversation. - EdgarVerona
Be ready for them to fire you immediately on giving that notice though. - GEOCHET
Aye, someone brought that up a bit above, and I definitely don't want that. I'll have to look around for a new place first, and then do this. I'm thinking that I can work with them on weekends to help train a replacement after I find a new job. - EdgarVerona
I don't know. I'd be fairly surprised if they fired you for handing in your notice. They'd be shooting themselves in the foot, from the sounds of it, if you really are indispensible, and if you do talk to them about it really early, it will relieve your conscience as well as making it easier for all - Ben
That is true too. There's a lot of opposing forces at stake here... because I think someone above pointed out that they may just cut their losses and close the whole company down at that point. I could actually see that happening, though I may just be paranoid. - EdgarVerona
[+5] [2009-01-06 18:45:53] Christopher Mahan

You gotta take care of you.

If you want to stay, talk to the owner, tell him that if he can't pull more money for you, that you want voting shares in the company as a form of payment. (laywer blah blah)

If he balks, you need to be prepared to walk. This means that you should have one firm job offer in hand, so you need to start looking.

But you need to talk to him and let him know what's going on. Don't corner him and make him overreact. That could be bad. If you don't feel comfortable talking to him about it, he's a bad manager and you need to walk.

Essentially his business is failing and you're being dragged down alongside it.

If you want to be super nice: help him find and train a replacement, and send customers his way.

Ultimately, you need to take care of your wife and yourself.

I do feel uncomfortable talking with him about it... and admittedly, as much as I hate to say it, he is a bad manager. He's not a bad person, he's always been nice to me... but as a business manager, I think he's made some bad decisions. I don't know if I could do better, but I'm no manager. =) - EdgarVerona
But I think I feel uncomfortable talking with him about it mostly because I don't want to let him down. But I think when push comes to shove, I have to. - EdgarVerona
Don't do it in the office. Do it over lunch (after eating, when bellies are full) - Christopher Mahan
With the working remotely thing, I can't actually get over there to talk to them in person. =( I'm too far away to get there other than by flying, and I can't afford a plane ticket just to break the news to them. Phone maybe? Oy, it seems so impersonal. I don't know. =( - EdgarVerona
Phone. Definitely. - Christopher Mahan
[+5] [2009-01-06 20:59:10] Karthik Hariharan

Before I joined my current company I had an opportunity to join a startup that was in exactly the same phase you are currently in. 3 years in and hadn't moved past its two founding employees. I walked away from it and joined a startup that had been around just as long but had 65 employees when I joined it.

First of all, three years and zero growth are generally a very bad sign. Even in this economy, you should be able to hire more employees and grow your business at a faster rate. If you can't get capital via product/services revenue, investment, or loans in that amount of time, then its time to get out. The odds are that you have poor management or you're bankrolling a bad idea.

Find a replacement, offer to train him/her, and come up with your exit strategy.

[+3] [2009-01-06 18:21:30] Tom Moseley

I hate to say this, but in my opinion you need to scoot. I'd start looking immediately. Even in this economy, you should be able to find something new, but a startup is likely to have real issues for a few years, at least. Venture capital might be hard to come up with.

I know it's gotta be difficult, because you probably feel some ownership, but it's not your company. Staying there, if it does fail, will leave you without a job, trying to find new work.

As far as telling them before you find something new, that's a tough call. if they're strapped for cash, they're likely not going to be able to hire your replacement and keep the both of you going for any meaningful time. The fact is, though, it's business.

You have a family, and your family has to come first. I'd get yourself out of that mess and back with a reputable company, earning what you're worth and caring for your family.

The possibility you brought up above that they might just cut their losses and drop it immediately is... definitely bad. I have no assets of any worth, so I can't afford to be unemployed even for a couple of weeks. =( - EdgarVerona
I'm sorry to bring it up, but it would be my chief concern. If they're as fragile as you paint, then it strikes me as being a real possibility. - Tom Moseley
It is true, and I'm glad you brought it up. I have to think about it. I know now that either way I have to move on, but I have to think about how is best to do it now... I thank you for your help, you all have been quite helpful in your advice. - EdgarVerona
[+3] [2009-01-06 18:47:11] Micah

While trying to look out for everyone's best interest is certainly admirable, your first loyalty needs to be to your family. Even if the money was good you would most likely would still be miserable which, speaking from experience, pretty much makes home life miserable. I think it's pretty much time to get out.

The first thing I would do before I ever open my mouth would be to get my resume together. You should have a ton of experience to draw from considering the fact that you are the only technical person in the company. Once I had this together I would just start applying for jobs whether it be directly with companies or through a recruiter. Personally I think finding a really good recruiter helps a lot.

Once you have some really good job leads or offers, that's when I would sit down with my employer and be honest. Don't get personal, but just explain exactly where your at. No one can argue with the fact that you are trying to the right thing for your family.

A few do's and don'ts:

  • When talking to your current employer, don't make it a sob story. Let them know how much you really appreciate the opportunity they've provided for you, and that you just need something a little more stable.
  • When you accept a new job offer Do let them know that you want to give your current company as much notice as possible to help with the transition.
  • Don't try to use a job offer as leverage from your current company to make you a better offer. Personally I think that's kind of underhanded, and it sounds like they aren't in a position where they can do that anyway.
  • When interviewing and they ask why you're leaving Don't make it about money, or anything other than the fact that you are looking for an opportunity to grow. If push comes to shove it is Ok to mention that you are looking for something more stable than where you are at currently, but always stay positive.
  • Most importantly, pray about it.

If your concerned about your experience, don't be. Play up your positives. A really good cover letter I think goes a long way.

Best of luck!

Thank you, this is very good advice! I definitely wouldn't use it as leverage... as you said, they have no money to give me anything anyways. I did fix up my resume in December when I started feeling like it was really starting to fall apart. I hope my experience there will make up for - EdgarVerona
the fact that I basically have no experience working in a team (as a result of doing this straight out of college, and doing it all solo). I get this nervous feeling... I hope I can find someone who can use my skills. =( - EdgarVerona
I started the same way. I was in sales up until I was 27. I taught my self .net and (no college experience) and found a good job. Just play up your positives, don't worry about what you don't know. Be honest, but they only know what you tell them. Doubting yourself gives them opportunity to doubt. - Micah
Hmm. You are right. I'll give it my best shot. =) Thanks again! - EdgarVerona
@Micah I sure need your advice. - MarlonRibunal
@MarlonRibunal - micahlmartin at gmail - Micah
[+3] [2009-01-06 19:01:31] MarlonRibunal

You have to take care of your family FIRST! Don't wait until it's too late. Go look for a company that can afford you a health insurance. If something happens to you (God forbids), think of what would happen to your wife. Think about your goals and motivations...and think again!

I know, I've been thinking about that for a while. I do feel like I've been playing dice with our future, which I feel terrible about. This whole situation has been eating at me for so long now. =( - EdgarVerona
Although I must say that you are getting a decent pay, the "Compensation" that you're getting do not really match up with what you are working for. I bet you don't even have a 401K plan. It's high time to think about you, your family, and the future! - MarlonRibunal
Nay, I don't have a 401K plan... admittedly, I hadn't even thought about it. =( I was just thinking about filling the immediate hole of needs. But that is true, I've got nothing for the future yet either. - EdgarVerona
$48000 for 5 years experience is not decent :-) - Matt
[+3] [2009-01-06 19:03:37] Kyle B.

Steps to take:

Step 1. If you and your wife are having a hard time making ends meet, then she should be working, regardless of whether you have kids or not.

Step 2. Get on your wife's health insurance plan. Can she get veteran's health insurance? You mentioned she was in the military. Try to explore this avenue.

Step 3. Set a deadline. Stress has a direct correlation to the gap that exists between what we want and what we don't have. It sounds like you are desiring stability and profitability. Sit down with your boss and explain that you are going to work until X date for X salary/benefit, and then Y date for Y salary/benefit as the scale progresses. Ask for what you feel is right and be firm about it. If it doesn't work, then there are plenty of companies out there looking to hire.

Good luck.

Oh, I'd not thought of Veteran's health insurance! I always forget about her veteran benefits. I'll have to look into that. She was medically discharged (but at 0% disability according to the Army... very odd =( ), but I think there should be something possibly, that's a good idea! - EdgarVerona
My wife has trouble as far as working goes because the only kinds of jobs she can get she'd have to stand for with her work/school experience (waitress, customer service etc...), but her injury she got in the army was to her knees, so she can't stand for very long at all. =( That's part of why - EdgarVerona
she wants to go to college, so she can get a decent job if push comes to shove... but we can't afford to send her. =( - EdgarVerona
I understand, but even places like Wal-Mart offer health insurance. Don't think of the pay grade, think of the benefits. Lots of big companies offer great benefits even to low positions. Health insurance is important, and expensive. It's a good idea plus she will make at least a little cash. - Kyle B.
That is true... it's the standing part that she couldn't do though. The Army messed up her knees something bad. She got spiral fractures and brecitus (I don't know how to spell it... when the fluid sac in your knees ruptures) in both of her legs. They ruled it 0% disability because they - EdgarVerona
decided it wasn't due to active duty (though she got it while running during boot camp). But either way you slice it, it basically has made her unable to stand for more than half an hour at a time, tops. It makes jobs like Wal-Mart impossible for her. =( - EdgarVerona
It is illegal for Wal-Mart to turn her down for a job that she would be qualified for because she can't stand. I'm just saying, big companies offer good benefits, and that is a step in the right direction. Explore all available veteran benefits too. Obama should be upping these come 1/20 also. - Kyle B.
But if the job involves her standing all day, she's going to be in terrible pain all day. Unless you mean they'd have to accommodate her... hmm. I'll have to look into this. - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 18:17:27] Marcus Erickson

I think the best plan in these situations is to have exactly this conversation with your boss. You are not morally held to keeping the company going. It is important to decide between is this the job you want and with the benefits you need for you and your family's happiness.

In this situation, I like the honest approach of sitting down with your boss and saying this isnt working for me. I feel bad because I dont know that the company can survive without me but my family and I cant survive. Then you can ask him for how he thinks you should both proceed. You guys may decide to cut now or you may set a timeline that says if you dont have insurance/raise in 6 months you are walking.

If the company is so underfunded it cant even afford your salary, a good question is whether you think it has enough money to survive. It takes money to market, sell and create a successful company. Does the company have what it takes to succeed in a resonable timeframe and will you get compensated for the risk you are taking with your life and career trying to get it there? This has to be weighed against keeping the family happy.

We definitely don't have the money to do marketing, that's for sure. When I asked my boss about how they pay for my salary, he said he had assets overseas that he's been selling, which I don't think is a good idea and I've told him that. Eventually that will run out, whatever it is. - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 18:24:40] TravisO

You've been there 5 years, obviously things aren't going to change over the next 5. There's been no growth and with a major employee leaving (the other engineer) and with them not replacing him, you can say the company is shrinking.

The answer is simple: if you want health insurance and/or better pay you have to leave. You've been there too long and you're getting complacent with your job. Just leave, you'll be much happier. You should do your boss a favor and give him heads up that you will be leaving soon (assuming you're sure he won't can you ahead of time but if you are the only guy that's highly unlikely). You might considering working extra hours for him on the side to give yourself even more pay in the future on top of your new job.

I get that feeling as well. I think our business idea was good in theory, but it just doesn't seem to succeed. - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 18:24:54] Arthur Thomas

I am all for loyalty and I think you've shown that, but the company needs to give him some back. Do not think of it as working for a person, but as working for an entity. If the company want to keep you then it should show that needs by taking care of a valuable employee (ie: paying you more, benefits) especially if you can easily find a better job. It sounds like you have committed a lot. If the other guy is committed (I don't know what he has already put in) then I would advise him to take out a loan to take care of you. If the company can't do that and has been 'on the verge' for 3 years.. then it is probably failing anyway.

Do not stay on to a something that is failing out of loyalty and do not stay on to a company that can't take care of you to your detriment. Companies succeed and die and this is normal. The only reason I would stay on is if you can see getting great reward for the cost. There is risk involved but it sounds like you are reaching the end of what you and the company can pay.

Being honest with yourself and others will pay off better than trying to hobble together something based on pure loyalty. Talk to your coworker/boss (not as a friend, but as a fellow employee of the company) and try to figure it out.

If the company succeeded and they held up their verbal agreement (which I believe, in all honesty, that they would), there would be a lot to potentially gain... but I think it's that whole "succeeding" part that is eluding us. - EdgarVerona
And indeed, I have been thinking a lot about loyalty. When I first started feeling like the company was going under, I had decided in my head that I'd stay on until it failed... go down with the ship as it were. I don't think I have the ability to do that though, I need to be practical. - EdgarVerona
That only ever works if everybody has the same level of risk. It's pretty clear though that you have the least to fall back on. - le dorfier
That is very true I think. =( - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 18:34:05] user46795

You need to walk off only if you have an offer from other company. Otherwise you will be jobless in the current economic scenario. Try freelancing, try yoga (I can dispatch some Yoga DVD's for you for free) to keep you in good health. Dont worry much about them. They will find another replacement. Remember nobody stays hungry. Else move to another country for some new experience, better savings and lower living costs.

I fear that (being jobless). I can't move to another country at the moment (I just moved out of state for the sake of helping some of my friends), but I definitely think I need to find another offer first. I may talk to them about the fact that I need to leave earlier, but I can't just go. - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 18:43:48] Uri

It's a tough spot, though I believe that in the end your family matters most, especially if you have plans for children. I think that after five years, your Boss has to understand the point in life that you're in and your needs. I am also concerned about whether your current job would count for the experience.

Is there some way you can work for them part time and take a primary job with benefits elsewhere? They can maybe hire someone cheaper to do the lower-level mundance stuff, while you still do the stuff that takes experience and smarts.

Aye, I think I'm going to try and do that. I'll devote weekends to them (hell, for free) until they find someone else if I can go somewhere to fix this lack of health insurance and underpayment situation. - EdgarVerona
Health insurance is one of my greatest concerns as well and is one of the reasons I am looking for a full-time job rather than going freelancing. In my home country we have single-payer so you're always covered. - Uri
(1) Ah, that is cool =) We need some Health Care reform here in the U.S. for sure, but I suppose that's another subject entirely =) - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 19:20:57] Blair

Should you decide to stay or decide to go? There's lots of good advice here. What I'll say is if you would decide to stay, it needs to be because you feel like this business is actually going to succeed, not just because you feel the business is going to fail without you. From the details you've given, it sounds like the company/owner is not able or willing to accomplish what is needed in order for the business to succeed. I may be wrong. Only you can truly answer that.

And for one more piece of advice from someone who has been involved with a startup (and left), get your deal regarding the ownership **in writing**. No matter what, it sounds like from where you're at that a discussion of some sort with your boss is in order. If you decide to stay, part of that discussion has to be about getting your ownership in writing. It's not a slam against the owner or his son, its just how business is done.

Aye, that is true. I should get it in writing... but I think you hit it on the head that I am only really there because it will fail without me. (ick, I sound arrogant saying that... I don't mean that in a gloating way =) ) - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 19:23:24] senfo

From an ethical standpoint, I completely understand where you're coming from. Not 100% related, but I lived with a friend of mine for a few years, most of which she had no job to pay the rent. I kept her around because I "knew" that if I wasn't there for her, she would fall flat on her face. Truth is, I got taken advantage of, badly. I dished out so much money that it makes me sick to think about it. In the end, things never worked out and I'm the one left to clean up the mess.

The bottom line here is that you need to look out for yourself. While you may feel you have a commitment to the company, you have to look at it from a business standpoint. All CEO's need to know when to cut their losses and move on. It sounds to me like this company is doomed (or at least very likely). If you're willing, allow for a transitional period. Just make sure that you have a job lined up first and that both parties are agreeable to a reasonable transition (it sounds to me like two weeks will not work for you in this situation).

Good luck...

Aye, I think it would need to be longer (possibly a month or so, unless I worked weekends longer maybe...), if they could find a replacement. I could get them up to speed and make sure that if they want to keep going they can. - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 19:24:08] Marcus Blankenship

Realize that your boss is a bad business man. Get out now. It's not going to turn around, and the company has let its services be devalued. Leave. Today. Really.

Then cry, create a resume, get unemployment, and get a better job. YOU DESERVE IT!

If I left today, even with unemployment I would have to declare bankruptcy by the end of the month. The unemployment check I'd get would barely be enough to pay rent, much less food and my student loans (though I could get forbearance on them perhaps). But I couldn't leave 100% them high and dry. - EdgarVerona
"Leave them 100% high and dry" I meant. Severe typo, my bad. =) - EdgarVerona
Edgar, I understand completely. What about changing your relationship with them, so you are "contracting" (at the same hourly rate) but can pursue other employment? Maybe you continue working for them in the evenings/weekends, allowing you to explore other full-time opportunities. - Marcus Blankenship
Aye, it's not a bad plan. I've got to think about it though, but I will keep that idea in mind. It's an interesting thought. - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-06 19:53:51] Jeff Martin

I've been at several start ups and there are a few things they had in common.

  • It always seemed like we were on the verge of something or on the verge of "making it".
  • When the money finally did run out, the company took care of their number 1 and not mine.

When I was working for startups, my wife always had a stable job with good health insurance. It sucks that you feel like leaving them would leave them high and dry, but I'm pretty sure when they come to a decision that they have no money left, they will probably have no money left to pay you any severance, leaving you high and dry.

I'd look for another full time job, when you find it, let your current employer know that you are leaving and that you would be willing to transition someone new and consult for them at an hourly rate.

Aye, they definitely won't be able to give me any severance if it came to that, I'm 100% sure of it. Heh, so we're not the only ones with this "on the verge" problem then. =) I've felt like we're "on the verge" for so long I feel burnt out and jaded at the prospect. =) - EdgarVerona
[+2] [2009-01-09 23:57:43] Cervo

I worked for a start up, I learned several things there.

  1. No matter how "nice" an owner seems, any start up owner is in it for profit (otherwise it would be a nonprofit). He will not hesitate to firesale the company(split up the assets and sell them piece by piece), if he can find a buyer (without regard to the employees). It's not evil, just good business. He will try to control expenses as much as possible by skimping on everything, including salaries, even when the company makes money. His goal is to get as much as he can from employees with as little money as possible.

  2. Get it in writing. A "verbal" agreement to split the profit 3 ways is nothing. Generally speaking employees at a start up are paid less because they have a stake in the company. The idea is that your stake will compensate you for the low salary. If you work for a start up without some type of stake, that is a bad business decision on your part. The whole idea of a stake is to compensate you for your low salary, blood and sweat, etc... If an agreement isn't in writing it is worthless. He could make a fortune and give you nothing.

  3. Start up owners are often over optimistic. There is usually a fast plan, a medium plan, and a slow plan. Often the business takes the slower plan that wasn't mentioned. Generally these plans promise the world, bonuses, pay increases, shares in the company, and some type of end game where the company is sold. if there is no business plan at all, that is a big red flag. If the plan changes, that is a red flag, but as long as each new plan makes some sense it may not be terrible. Sometimes plans change, you thought there was a market for something and there isn't, but during the process you make something else and find a market for that. Or you find the market for the product you are selling is different than you thought. But too many changes may be a red flag.

  4. In your career you need to be in it for yourself. If a company fails to pay you what you are worth, and fails to rectify it then good-bye. If a company fails to provide insurance and other benefits you need, good-bye. If you are working 80 hours a week every week and need to see your wife more, good-bye. I can tell you now that you are severely underpaid. You have a family to support. I have a friend (who is a key employee at a start-up) and he keeps whining about the company's slow profits and that he is going to leave, and they keep giving him more shares. But he makes sure to get it in writing. Even so he is considering quitting once his shares vest this time. His idea is that someday they will sell the company and the extra shares will be worth something. But for a non key employee like me, I had no leverage for negotiating shares. They just found someone else to do the job (at market rate) and didn't have to give any shares to that person.

I worked for a start up and my biggest regret was not leaving sooner. Some of the guys were in it with huge stakes. But because I just got out of college they got me cheap (which the COO admitted he was shocked at the deal and if he knew he could get employees like me that cheap he wouldn't have hired the rest of the guys) and gave me a tiny share (a tiny fraction of a percentage). 1.5 years later I got a raise (10,000 more per year) and I was really happy. Then 2.0 years later I got a raise with everyone else (another 10,000 per year) and again I was happy. When I finally quit, they offered me 40,000 more to stay without blinking, that was their first offer (meaning negotiating they probably would have gone higher). I still left, and my other job had Offered me 20,000 more. But the reality is that you don't know what you are worth until you leave. And also, that your salary is based on your previous job. So by the start up underpaying you, you will be underpaid in your next job. They will base your salary on 48,000 and not the 75,000 or so that you should have been making. Also when searching for a job, they will wonder why you are underpaid, did you suck that badly? If you left at 75,000 (probably around what a 27 year old software developer with 5 years experience should make...if you a superstar the salary goes way up) you would now be starting at 75,000 so your next job would probably pay you at least 80,000 and for a really good move more (in this economy it will be hard). By leaving at 48,000 you will be lucky to get 55,000. Someone may realize you are really underpaid and offer you 70,000 (they may have to because the job may have a salary range and hiring you way under it in a big company may raise red flags) but finding someone is luck. And the economy is not going to help you there.

With a start up basically 3 things happen: 1. It runs out of money and fails (most common) 2. It limps along a lot slower than the owners imagined and they end up selling it for way less than the business plan 3. It is wildly successful, makes millions of dollars, or is sold for millions of dollars making everyone rich (most rare)

The one I worked for was #2. it is still limping along, and they are making more profit. But no one is selling the company anytime soon, even though it was formed in 2002 on a 4 year business plan.

if you have a normal job you work 40 hours a week and make market rate (sometimes 50 or 60 hours too but if your aren't making above market rate it's a bad deal).

if you work for a start up you work over 40 hours a week at a discount for shares. In the end if your shares are enough to compensate your salary for market rate and the extra time it is a bad economic decision on your part.

I understand that you are nice and want to do him a favor. But losing 5 years of income (assuming you started at 22) probably say 20,000 a year so 100,000 a year in income is more than a favor. A favor is let me give you $20 to help you get this. Let me give you $100 as a loan to help you out. Not let me give you $100,000, not have health insurance so if I get sick I will drown in medical bills, and not see my wife.

You shouldn't even be asking the question. It is obvious what the answer is. Quit IMMEDIATELY. I mean give time for a transition plan but no more than two months. In reality one month is probably more than enough. 6 months or a year transition plan is a no no.

You have very good points. And indeed, I do get the feeling that I deserve more like 75,000 per year... and as well, I do feel like I probably won't be able to get any more than 60k/year if I leave, at best. I do see my wife since I telecommute from home (I see her a lot more than I did when - EdgarVerona
I actually lived near this place, that's for sure =) ), and in a way moving to a regular job I'll be seeing her less... but the money will make a big difference in paying off student loans and debts, and she can start going to school again. Aye. - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-06 18:41:25] Gerald

I guess it depends on what you think the prospects for the company might be. Startups can indeed take a long time to get going, especially when running on a shoestring budget. But if you do stick it out I would definitely demand a stake in the company on top of whatever salary you get. It really sounds like you ARE the company at this point, so that wouldn't be an unreasonable demand.

Maybe sit down with them and talk about their business plan, and how they plan on going forward. Tell them you'd like to see the company grow, but you can't afford to continue the way it is, so there needs to be some real hope of improvement.

If you CAN manage to make something of the company, and it's a business that you believe in, you'll probably be happier in the long run than being just another corporate tool. But if there isn't much prospect of making it then you really have to move on and take care of #1.

Start looking around for jobs before you tell them that you plan on leaving, to protect yourself, but do give them as much warning as you can before leaving.

See, that's what I was envisioning too, which is why I first started there. My father works for EDS, and it always looked to me like working in the corporate world was misery. I thought this would be a good chance to break out of that kind of future... but our chances do seem smaller and smaller. - EdgarVerona
I'll be sure to give them plenty of warning... and hell, I'd work on weekends for free for them if it'd help them survive. They're good people, I don't want to see them out on the street for sure. =( - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-06 19:12:36] le dorfier

If I were in your situation, I'd have one more thing I'd want to resolve (if you haven't already), and that's to learn where the company really is, and what's the real remaining opportunity.

Get ahold of Geoffrey Moore's Inside the Tornado or a similar book and see if it helps you understand where the company really sits in the opportunity cycle. Perhaps you'll be able to talk it through with the owner and agree (on what would be based on what you learn). But see if you can at least maximize what you learn from this. Five years is a long time - I would think you are either on the cusp, or not. Also, if you know any wise investor-types, talk to them as well.

Hmm, I'll have to see if the library has that book. I don't know how close we sit, but I have a feeling it's in the "grasping for straws" stage (if there is one =) ). We had a couple situations that felt like they would make us, but fell through... and now we're just kind of stagnant. =( - EdgarVerona
Yes, there's a problem if you're in the "If We Build It They Will Come" mentality. You need at least one champion customer who believes in your solution. And if you're just adding features to make it more attractive, that won't work. Does the owner have any success history? - le dorfier
We have one customer who has been using our main software product for a couple years now, and keeps telling us that they love it and they'll get us more customers... but they never have. All they've ever done is ask for tech support (not just for our product, but in general for many things). - EdgarVerona
I don't think he's done a successful startup before, this I think is his first time trying... I think. I actually don't know, now that you mention it. - EdgarVerona
It's really the boss's job to take it to the next level, which means turning your good reference into more sales. If he doesn't have that background and/or aptitude, then the product alone won't make much difference. At your stage, new sales would be references - which isn't happening. - le dorfier
"Marketing" won't help at this early stage. The only hope would be an investor who has a track record and some smarts, but you haven't mentioned any such. I'd say you'd be doing everyone a favor by executing an exit strategy. Possibly offer to reconsider if your "partner" produces a profitable sale. - le dorfier
But I agree with the others that health insurance should be a minimum litmus test. If you can't get that, then there's not sufficient commitment on the other end, and they are asking too much of you. - le dorfier
We only have him as an investor at the moment. Aye, I've got to get some health insurance. The thought of sudden health problems/accidents for which I cannot pay has been in my mind a lot lately. =( - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-06 21:11:08] Andrew G. Johnson

Working for two companies and neither can pay you a decent salary? You need to cut the cord man :)

Well, to be fair to the second one it's the company that my friends and I dreamed of making when we were in high school, so I have a very personal desire to see that succeed. =) - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-06 21:30:32] Proviance

I know everyone is telling you to run, but I caution you to take some time to think about it. What chance does a programmer have to own their company? You need to take an ownership of your company. You need to make the company work. If there are only 3 people in the company everyone is responsible for the success of the company. If you know how to make it work yell at your boss until he makes the changes or fires you. This is YOUR company, you built it from the ground up, if you take ownership you could have a chance at making it, if you walk away you are looking at working in another cubicle for another company for another 30 years.

First think about the viability of the company, not relationships. Is the company going to work? Can the software be sold? It has 1 client that must be paying 48k a year, that’s better than 99% of the start ups. Next figure out what needs to be done to make it work and work better. Decide if you are willing to do it. Then sit down with your boss and driving the company. On the other hand if you don't think it is viable you shouldn't be there.

On another note, get all compensation in writing soon. It is amazing how fast people forget the programmers when the money starts coming in.

Nay. We have six clients... three of them basically pay us to scan documents for them (which isn't even our business anymore... I guess it was at some point before I got there) which nets them ~1500$/month between them. - EdgarVerona
The other three made one time payments for our software (with the highest being ~$15k for the service bureau management software I made), with an average of about one sale every year the last three years, but now are just draining us in tech support. - EdgarVerona
They're definitely not making enough money to cover my own salary, let alone theirs. =( - EdgarVerona
in that case you could save them money by getting a new job. :) You have worked on it for 5 years, make sure it has no value before you leave it :) - Proviance
Aye, that is true. That's what I don't - and I feel I can't - know for sure. For all I know, like someone below said, they could succeed the day after I quit. But if they do, that's great. I just need health insurance. =( - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-09 21:52:32] Cap

I know you feel like this is an ethical dilemma, but at some point you have to look out for yourself. I was in a very similar situation. The decision wasn't personal. You have to be able to live with that fact. I know it's hard when you're at a small company because everything seems personal.

Aye, it really, really does feel personal. I'm having a hard time even envisioning the conversation I'm going to need to have with them if I find a job that can give me what I need monetarily and benefits-wise. This is going to be very hard. - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-09 23:22:26] tekiegreg

Been there, done that. Ultimately I was a key developer at a company at one point being the most senior programmer there and #1 knowledgable of all the systems. Pay was crap, benefits were null and they couldn't afford me.

I did try and stick it out for awhile, but ultimately I had to realize that my sanity wasn't worth it anymore. I was in college part-time at the time and wanted to go full time and finish my degree, this job wasn't very permissive of this with their time requirement. So eventually I had a chat with the boss, started transferring everything I knew to a new hire and over the course of 3 months phased myself out completely, no regrets either.

For what it was worth this was in 2000, and the .com bubble burst of late 2000-01 ultimately did them in. They wouldn't have had much longer to live anyway.

Aye, our situations do sound very similar. What'd they end up doing? Were they able to find new jobs, or start up a new company? - EdgarVerona
[+1] [2009-01-12 21:38:17] Greg Dan

Just one more comment. Your quit should be also good for your boss and his son. They will have to finally find new jobs where they actually might earn more. Who knows, maybe your boss still runs the company because he feels responsible for you.

It's an interesting point, one that I hadn't thought of... I don't think that's the case (i.e. I don't think he's still going because of a debt to me), but possibly. I hadn't even considered that possibility. - EdgarVerona
I do worry that my boss is too old to FIND a new job. I think he's in his early 60's. Too young for retirement (not that our company has a retirement plan), too old to be hired by most companies. =( - EdgarVerona
[0] [2009-01-06 19:23:11] theman_on_vista

you know the company is going to hit it big as soon as you quit, right?

lol, part of me thinks that too! I can picture that happening as well. I hope they do though, if that happens. They're good people, I want them to succeed. I would feel a bit silly if I left and they suddenly made it big though, admittedly. =) - EdgarVerona
[0] [2009-01-06 19:31:37] nerdabilly

is there any reason the company can't provide the health insurance? If they were eligible for SBA then surely they're a legit company and can at least get something. Is there some kind of financial reason? I worked for a startup when I first graduated, their health plan was an HMO and it was so bad it wouldn't cover some very basic medical needs I have... my physical and mental health got so bad that I had to leave in the interest of my own well being. I realized that they had depended on me so I was kind of screwing them over, but remember this: NO job is worth your health (or your family's health). Maybe take some initiative by looking into healthcare plans for small businesses and provide your boss with that info. there's plenty of those plans out there, maybe it's just a matter of finding the right one.

We're eligible for an SBA loan, but every bank we have gone to (so far, I've counted half a dozen that they've "had meetings with") has turned us down for the loan itself. I'll look for a plan, maybe I could find them something they can afford... but I don't know if that'll solve the big problem. - EdgarVerona
[0] [2009-01-06 20:27:43] Chris

In the words of my father, "you need to look after you and yours before someone else".

[0] [2009-01-06 21:07:59] U62

Sounds awful. Tell your boss you have to call it a day. If they are keen on continuing, offer them a decent notice period (3 months maybe, it might take 3 months to find an alternative position in this market anyway). Although you can't tell us much about the start-up (understandably), if they haven't 'made it' after 5 years then they are not going to make it in the currently economic climate and in the end, your boss and his son will probably be better off doing something else as well.

I had that feeling as well (that they might be better off doing something else too, given the fact that it hasn't worked for so long), but I am worried that especially my boss won't find anything if that happens because he's pretty old (like approaching retirement age). - EdgarVerona
[0] [2009-01-07 05:02:50] Jobo

Help them find a replacement and look after yourself.

[0] [2009-01-10 00:18:32] Cervo

By the way two other observations.

  1. "We've never had money for marketing, and though we were approved by the SBA for loan backing, no one will give us an SBA business loan so we can actually do marketing." If you don't market your product how do you expect to sell it. I don't think the company will hit it big when you leave. Basically on a start up usually sales/marketing come first at the expense of everything else. Unless you have customers the company is dead. Any money that came in should go to marketing.

  2. You have a severe problem. Do you want a divorce? "I had to move out of town to help some of my friends in their business (which I now am on evenings and weekends... and no, they don't have money to pay me a salary at all =) )"

Now only are you working for one start up for little money, you are working for another start up for nothing. There is a difference between helping a friend and being taken advantage of. You have to learn to say NO. and don't screw around with your livelyhood. You need a good secure job to support you and your wife that provides benefits. Also if you are working during the week and on the weekend when are you seeing your wife? You're going to burn out quickly. Exactly how long do you think your wife is going to put up with never seeing you and having nothing to show for it?

I wouldn't be so harsh with you. But you are already working for a start up for little pay and now you are giving your time away to another for nothing. Your next job may be another start up for little pay to "help" someone out. And maybe you'll "help" other friends out on the side. You need to take control of your life man. And learn to say "NO". It is shorter than saying "YES".

Your priorities should be 1. family 2. other stuff relevant to you and your wife being happy and so forth .... .... much higher number than 2. Job

You said it yourself you can't afford health insurance. What happens if one of you gets in a car crash or needs surgery (sometimes reproductive issues with woman start to show up in their 20's like endometroisis, fibroids, etc. and surgery may be required...not saying it is guaranteed but even if there is a 1% chance you can't afford it). If you're going to work on the weekends, it should be to provide for your family where your start up doesn't. Hell even working at Walmart would be better than what you are doing now with your spare time on the weekends, at least they pay. Even rentacoder's dirt cheap India rates would be better than nothing.

I see where you're coming from on this, and you are right. Now, when it comes to helping out my friends (the reason why I moved) I feel that's a bond that's worth doing for free, mainly because if that company gets started it's what I actually want to DO with my life... but - EdgarVerona
in regards to the job I'm doing as my day job, I don't really want to do that for the rest of my life... and as you pointed out, it's not paying enough or giving the necessary benefits for it to even be feasible. I will consider your points, they are true. - EdgarVerona
[0] [2009-01-30 15:56:35] Mitch Haile

This question has been well answered but I wanted to make a general high level comment:

Don't stay at a failing start-up for more than a year. Get your 1 year of stock and move on.

Now, in this case, you don't even have a stock plan--it's not a real start-up. Find a new job, hopefully one where you can work with other people and grow. I would say that having spent the first 5 years of your career working alone has been a big disservice to you and ideally you could find a place to work that can make up for it.

Aye, I definitely want to work with people... I can feel that I'm missing large gaps in knowledge due to not having a team to work with, bounce ideas off of, and learn from. =( Still no luck on the looking for a job front yet. I'm not sure why. All I've been able to find are temp contracts. =( - EdgarVerona
It's very tough to find a job right now. Get on LinkedIn if you're not, find recruiters in your area, go to Python/Perl/C/VB/Whatever user group meetings in your geographical area--just have to keep pounding the pavement. - Mitch Haile