Naww man, mad people was frontin’
Aww man, made something from nothing
– Kanye West, “New God Flow”
Your startup is going well, and as your business expands, you hear the dreaded words from someone on your board: “You need to hire some senior people. Some real ‘been there, done that’ executives to help you get the company to the next level.”
Really? Is now the time? If so, where do I begin? And once I get them, what do I do with them? And will I know if they are doing a good job?
The first question you might ask is, “Why do I need senior people at all? Won’t they just ruin the culture with their fancy clothes, political ambitions, and need to go home to see their families?” To some extent, the answer to all of those may be “yes,” which is why this question must be taken quite seriously. However, bringing in the right kind of experience at the right time can mean the difference between bankruptcy and glory.
Let’s go back to the first part of the question. Why hire a senior person? The short answer is time. As a technology startup, from the day you start until your last breath, you will be in a furious race against time. No technology startup has a long shelf life. Even the best ideas become terrible ideas after a certain age. How would Facebook go if Zuckerberg started it last week? At Netscape, we went public when we were 15 months old. Had we started six months later, we would have been late to a market with 37 other browser companies. Even if nobody beats you to the punch, no matter how beautiful your dream, most employees will lose faith after the first five or six years of not achieving it. Hiring someone who has already done what you are trying to do can radically speed up your time to success.