I was having lunch recently with a CEO/Founder and his first employee about the state of their startup. I have been helping them figure how to drive recurring revenue and how to further organize their sales process.
Everything was looking great for them. They were able to secure their first 5 paid customers, who are now signed and committed to several month engagements. Then the CEO proceeded to introduce his new employee and explain how his other hire, who was supposed to be in charge of sales, didn’t work out. He introduced the new employee as his new VP of Product. He then went on to explain how the other hire was supposed to be the VP of Business Development and Sales but didn’t work out. Now don’t get me wrong, the current employee seemed to be a young, smart individual, however unless they were a founder there is no way that they should hold a VP title as the first hire. Part of it is because of the fact that this individual was 22 years old and although was probably brilliant at thinking up product, they clearly had zero experience building, scaling, and managing large teams – which in my opinion is what VP level managers are supposed to do.
As a side-note, this is coming from me, a guy who wanted to rule the world at 21 and thought he’d build a Fortune 500 company by 23 years old — so in other words for me to admit that wisdom and experience comes with time takes a lot out of me to admit. And I say this not based on one’s maturity level or intelligence; there are plenty of really young talent out there that would blow away your seasoned executive in a heart beat. What I’ve learned was that with time you just experience more; you fail more, you meet more people, you are able to identify trends within the people and technology aspects of business, and you are able to effectively manage internal politics slightly better — for example. Agree with it or not, this is what I mean (BTW – I’m still only 32 years young!).