The Right Time to Add Staff
Companies don’t hire people; people hire people. Companies are policies, processes, and procedures constructed so that a collection of people will behave and operate in a predictable manner. Companies write job descriptions that merely reflect a role with functional responsibilities. Unfortunately, company job descriptions tell prospective candidates absolutely nothing about the context of the dynamic business environment the person is joining. That’s where the people come in.
It’s too early in the data center market’s history to posture too seriously when interviewing executive talent. All the “firsts” we see constitute evidence that the data center market is still in its formative years and is continuing to grow.
We see the biggest companies in our industry being acquired, and we’re not quite sure what the near-term effect will be. We see the first of the second generation of successful data center executives banding together on new ventures, but with a new twist. Experienced investors look to fund experienced teams to protect their early investments in the data center market. Who better to reduce the risks than those looking to lather, rinse, and repeat? We see first-time CEOs stepping into chairs with which they are not familiar, responsible for developing business plans they may not have created, and hiring functions over which they have no historical command. We see boards working together and hiring together for the first time, without precedent and without a net.
The problem with people is our damn human nature. Inherent in “firsts” is human nature’s cautious approach to disclosure, which, in turn, reduces engagement with strategic level talent. Leave the CYA decision-making and protective posturing to the companies. Individuals form the DNA that defines a company. The only predictable thing about people is that they are all different. Individuals approach business strategy and execution differently.
Enter Acme Colo, an emerging company with ambitious growth plans to end the year with $15 million in revenue, up 100 percent from 2010, growth, which it credits to a new cloud offering. It’s time to take it national; we need a VP sales with colo, cloud, channel, marketing, IT, sales management, boardroom presentation experience, and an inclusive address book guaranteed to kick start the year’s pipeline. Let’s take two presidents’ views on how to approach this hire.
President A wants a talent as senior and broad as possible so that he/she can define product propositions, develop marketing, and create direct and indirect /channel sales strategies. More experience typically comes with more years of experience and a little higher price tag for those who are successful at their trade. President B prefers continuing on a more prudent, organic growth route where face-to-face sales will ultimately refine and define the product offering and value proposition … and is a quicker path to revenue.
President A wants to set the bar high and build for the future in a good market. This may come at the expense of slower revenue gain over the next six months, but when we hit $15 million, our growth inflection rate will be on a steeper path heading into 2012.
President A likely has some capital backing and the stakeholders are closely aligned. President B’s confidence is high that the $15 million target will be achieved along with a higher EBITDA year end.
President A is willing to look nationally for the right talent and be comfortable with the relocation costs, higher equity stake in the deal, and the commitment to someone new to the executive team and board. President B feels that proximity and locality are important so he only hires producers who have great local networks that the company can tap into by putting their own logo on the new salesperson’s hat.
Ultimately President A and her new VP Sales will be looking for the same local sales talent that President B has already hired. Ultimately President B and his local sales tentacles will need a true national sales leader who can unify the locality approaches and build resources with materials and channels. But the approach and chronology to achieve the same are very different.
The company is the same. The job description for the VP Sales is the same. The differentiator is the individual CEO’s approach to business and resulting plans of action, which is too often unspoken until too late. One of those ugly human nature characteristics is to first look at “Why not” rather than “How could we?” The posturing of interviewing brings out the worst in people, mostly because we’re not practiced at it.
I love seeing the energy at conferences where strangers of similar experiences break into smile and visibly loosen when you hear that first “me too.” Guards go down and opportunity antennae go up. The focus shifts to “how can we make something work out?” rather than “are you worthy of working here?” But then an interview happens and people turn into companies.
Don’t let the company hire people. Be yourself. Open the kimono. Share trade secrets. This isn’t a CYA hire. Find your voice. Tell your story to more people. Share your vision. Get off the ‘interview’ stance. Wear it on your sleeve. Flirt, share, send flowers…get the girl…you’re made for each other.