I recently listened to a Ted Talk with Eric Berridge, the CEO of BlueWolf. In summary, many years ago when the company was in startup mode, they were on the verge of losing one of their best customers. Anyway, they headed to the local bar and struck up a conversation with the bartender. The next day the team was meeting again on how they may be able to save this customer, and somewhat in the joking way, Eric suggested, “Why not just send the bartender.” So they did, and he managed to save the account, and now it’s a great story about how their company changed course.
The reason this talk resonated with me as a long-time advocate of talent in tech is that many companies get stuck on the knowledge, skills, and abilities – better known as the job description. With no flexibility guarantees the company is missing out on diversifying talent for your company to succeed.
If you do any recruiting in tech, the term Purple Squirrel or Unicorn is well known. It’s the perfect candidate. This person has the right qualifications, there is little ramp up time since they add immediate value, and sometimes they even know how elusive they are, which means they are hard to trap.
I’ve been part of recruiting for many companies around central Indiana for a long time. At times we operate as an exchange program, trading talent for talent. The pool of tech talent has been short for a while, and there have been companies who can teach you how to code in a few weeks and get you hired immediately upon completion. Recruiters are always looking for new candidates, but hiring managers like people who are experienced, and those just don’t grow on trees. They aren’t low hanging fruit. It takes time to cultivate like a garden. The issue is the demand was always high, and worse after the acquisition of ExactTarget by Salesforce in 2014. The market has changed dramatically with a lot of startup growth.
Matching the right candidate to the right environment is tricky. Startups are great for people who are risk takers. You might be a little underpaid, but that could pay off with some equity. There is typically very little if any structure, meaning established processes, procedures, and sometimes you even have to bring a few office supplies. It’s highly collaborative, because teams are small, lean, and everyone wears multiple hats. In my experience, startups can be described positively as they spur creativity being on the ground floor on building a company. It’s not unusual to change course direction with an awesome idea.
Some people like stability. They want to have a workspace waiting for them along with a somewhat predictable day. If they need supplies, they just place an order to facilities. I’m not saying that you can’t be creative in an established company environment, but you may have to get buy in with a few internal meetings. The pay is consistent and there is usually a yearly performance increase.
Knowing what type of company someone can be successful in helps with recruiting. If you know each of the work environments, it can help weed out candidates. Someone who is a working in a larger established company may struggle in a fast-paced startup. The same goes for someone who is used to a fast-paced, high growth company – they would like pull their hair out in a slow-moving, process driven company.
So, the question remains: what’s a company to do? Well, maybe head to your local bar.