When I started asking around for advice about working for a start-up, everyone said "Look at the Business Plan." That's nice seeming advice, but considering my first experience with one is the one I am making a career choice on, I'm not sure if that actually puts me in a good position to judge. Seriously, what is normally in one of these?
A business plan (esp for a company looking for investors, or anticipating growth), should include everything from the mission statement to the revenue streams and expected profitability timeline, and provide an indication that each of the major issues for the business have been considered and addressed. There should be some indication that both the Market (who will buy what you have to sell?) and Finances (can you make it for less than you'll sell it? How much outlay is required to make it?) have been considered. For example, it might include the expected clients, or investors, predicted areas of growth or challenges. In a science field (I'm clearly thinking about biofuels, but this holds true for biotech as well), these is probably some oblique reference to the whiz-bang science that is going to move the company forward. If it doesn't sound believable, you should be able to get references about it.
The part that is a little confusing is that a business plan is normally written for investors, either the bank that will make a loan or venture capitalists. As a result, everything is couched in the language of "Potential Success and Profits!" It's hard to look past the "uniquely qualified team," and their "cutting edge approach," despite their "deep understanding of market realities" to see if there is a good idea down there. And working for a start up might not be like a normal job, where you know if you show up and do your thing, you'll have some stability. It's riskier, and as someone who doesn't like job hunting much, I want to be sure the job I take is one I'll still have in a few months.
I'm not really sure how one balances all that, frankly.
The one other think I have to add was this funny acronym, EBITDA- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization which is a nice way of making earnings look as GIANT as possible, even though that isn't a perfect reflection of the final take home.