A recent article by Zoli Erdos really got me to thinking about startup
hiring. The article was titled "Startups: Executive Hiring Challenges or Beware of the
If you're a startup founder about to hire an executive (particularly if
you're using an executive recruiter), you should really take 15 minutes out of
your busy day and read Zoli's article. You'll thank me (though you should thank him).
I'm going to lead with a comment I put on Zoli's blog:
A startup should not hire Seth Godin for its VP of Marketing. It
should hire the next Seth Godin.
Before I go on, if you don't know who Seth Godin is, feel free to replace with someone else you know who is really successful.
Here's why you shouldn't hire Seth:
1. Though past success is often a predictor of future success, it
assumes similar circumstances. If you're hiring some hot-shot executive from
Oracel to be your VP of Sales and that executive sold $300MM (or managed people
that did), that does not mean they're going to be able to make a single sale for
your startup. Or even find people that are going to sell for you. They may
just not have it in them.
2. Even if they would be successful at a startup (because their
prior success was a startup too), if they've been that successful, they're not
going to be particularly hungry and aggressive. Yes, there's a certain floor of
passion that some successful people are going to have (they're constitutionally
incapable of working 40 hour weeks), but the fire is not going to be the same.
They don't have a point to prove. They've already proven it. This is somewhat
paradoxical. If they're really as successful and good as they look on paper,
they're probably not going to be hungry.
3. Startups are an arbitrage game on many levels -- particularly
recruiting. Any chump can pay $250,000 a year plus options and go hire a VP of
Marketing with a pedigree. Show me a startup that can recruit world-class
people at below fair market value (at least temporarily) and I'll show
you a startup that has their head on straight. In the world of startup
recruiting, you're playing a passion arbitrage game.
4. Beware the resource needs of executives from big firms. Though they may
be great at turning a $20MM marketing budget into $2 billion, it doen't matter
much if you don't have $20MM. They be a world-class player, but you
may not have what they need to succeed.
Summary: Use your passion and instincts to help find the next Seth Godin,
and then help them kick-butt.
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