On the day before Christmas you'd think I'd stop working. And officially, I had. No work. I didn't even walk into my home office until I sat down to write this post.
Nevertheless, because my boss also happens to be one of my closest friends (I know – crazy, right?), he came over for dinner, cigars and some time to chat. Tomorrow we'll celebrate Christmas and I'm hoping he won't give me coal (like last year).
But this isn't about gifts or working on the day before Christmas. It's a post about our conversation tonight, and the echoes of a conversation I had years ago with a venture capitalist.
In fact, it was that conversation with a venture capitalist that has shaped, over several years now, my thoughts on company growth.
The discussion was about hiring
If you're anything like our company, then you're likely hiring. You're telling anyone and everyone you're hiring because there's more work than you can handle – all the time.
And like everyone else, we need to hire some folks. Tonight our conversation focused on account managers and business development – both areas where our growth is driving greater demands that we know need to be filled.
Yet my recommendation was to wait a bit. To slow down.
(Not what any CEO wants to hear – trust me.)
I'm not saying we don't need to hire folks. Not at all. We do. Seriously.
But that's when I remembered the “classic” mistake I learned from a VC years ago.
Hiring isn't just about people, it's about timing
In case you don't know, a venture capitalist (or VC) works for a company that invests in other companies. They make big investments with the hope that the investments will pay off with large returns. And if you want their investment, you have to show up, present your company and it's business model (and other data), and ask for an investment.
The thing is this – you may be doing it for your first time, and they hear these “pitches” a thousand times a year (at least).
So they learn to spot the patterns – including the ones that present a classic mistake.
See, when you get to the part where you ask for money you likely get a question about how you'll spend the money.
This is where the mistake appears.
Companies often suggest that with their money they'll hire staff (like sales staff).
Only, the problem is that their business model isn't finalized yet. They don't know exactly who their perfect customer is. And yet they plan to spend money hiring people.
This says nothing about whether they're hiring good people or not.
Let's assume they hire great people.
But how can you expect those great people to be great if they're not sure what their target customer looks like, sounds like, or needs?
If you hire great people too early, you are wasting time and money.
In the end, after a great cigar, we decided to pause for just a bit. Instead, we'd introduce a bit more process and create a stronger context for some of these new hires so that when we do hire them, they'll be better able to thrive in their new roles.
It's not always the fun answer, but it's often a better answer.
Because sometimes the time for growth is later. After you have better systems, accountability, and process in place – not before they get there.
Even if that means you're a bit frustrated because you need more people than you have.
After all, I think we all know the cost of hiring incorrectly, right?
Plus, this gives you a chance to hit me up if you're an experienced account manager with large enterprise projects, or someone who digs business development and can write well (and often).