At Range Ventures we love it that founders dream big, think about the future and building billion-dollar+ companies. Having that mindset is 100% necessary – you aren’t going to build a billion-dollar company if you aren’t trying to build a billion-dollar company.
However, one area where I find that this mindset actually hamstrings early-stage founders (seed to post series A/B) is hiring for functional leadership roles. When founders are interviewing their first functional heads (e.g. Head of Finance, Head of People) the biggest concern I hear at first is “I’m worried this person won’t scale.”
Scaling and growing are critical, but I often find that founders are so focused on that piece and making sure the hire has proof “they can scale” that they overlook the most important question – “Can they (and are they willing) to do the job I need done for the next 12 to 18 months?”
While it’s true that you can find the perfect person who both can (and is willing) to do the job today and can scale for as long as you need, but in my experience, it’s rare that you can find PROOF of both in one person.
The person who on paper has the scaling proof many times is not cut out for the job as it sits today which in early-stage companies is a mix of individual contributor, recruiter, manager, and to generally fix f*cked up or non-existent processes.
The person who is currently leading teams of 100 hasn’t flexed those skills in years and is used to having people and systems to support them. And when asked to handle all of those things that an early stage leader has to do, this person often fails because they prioritize and focus on the things they know and are easy, not the things that just have to get done.
Here is the order of priority that I encourage founders in our portfolio to evaluate new “Heads of” hires at the early stage:
- Will they be A+ at the job you need done now and for the next 18 months (and are they excited to do it)?
- Do they have something in their background (e.g. multiple quick promotions, a great mentor, have seen lighting-fast growth first hand) that leads you to believe they have the POTENTIAL to scale?
- Are they team first and egoless and if the need arises for them to be layered will they still thrive?
Not all experienced executives will fail joining early-stage companies, but make sure you evaluate first their ability and willingness to do the job you need done today before worrying about a tomorrow you still have to get to.