New Years Resolutions are for Suckers…Here’s mine.

New Years Resolutions are for Suckers…Here’s mine.

2017 arrived last week right on schedule, and with it the standard self-analysis that comes with a lifetime of indoctrinated New Year’s cliches. Hard as I try to fight the power, I’m not above the “New Year, New You” hype that account for annual surges in gym memberships and drastic spikes in self-help book sales. We’re such suckers for self-evaluative milestones, present company included. What’s my purpose? How am I doing? Where am I in relation to my goals? As I find myself contemplating these existential questions, this year they have taken on a decidedly more business focused turn.

As an entrepreneur in the tech space, I literally eat off of my ability to set and achieve my business goals. The hustle is real out here.  Back in my cubicle days as a Fortune 500 techie, the consequences of not meeting objectives, while stress inducing, were not dire. Falling short of the occasional quarterly goal amounted to little more than a missed opportunity to max out the quarterly bonus or at worst, earning the dreaded “below objectives” rating on the performance evaluation sheet. Today, my brand, my reputation and livelihood are 100 percent dependent on my ability to churn out high-quality results on a consistent basis, no matter what. If I am to continue to grow my start-ups into thriving and successful ventures, having an off day (both literally and figuratively) is a luxury I simply can not afford. The margin for error is zero, and I’m okay with that. I signed up for this life.  As my business grows beyond my ability to manage every facet of it, my number one priority is sourcing a team to co-sign on this vision.

I need people – exceptional, self-motivated, smart people who consistently deliver to a standard of excellence. While I’ve been successful in recruiting and onboarding an amazing team of developers and product managers who have met and even surpassed my expectations, I have not had the same success when it comes to staffing sales people. Why? Well, for one, Austin happens to be a mecca for techies and creatives, and with my background in the field, I know exactly what I’m looking for and I can spot it from a mile away. Conversely, when it comes to sales, my lack of experience makes for a poor b.s. meter. I’ve been lured in by some amazing pitches and promising bids that just haven’t panned out. The sales people that I’ve encountered are great at selling me on their desire to join the team, but when it comes to actually showing up for the role…not so much. I have courted, interviewed, and contracted a handful of individuals only to be met with unfortunate performance and disappointing results that ultimately lead to nulled contracts and place me back at square one in a revolving churn of sales sourcing.

As I expand my team to meet growth goals in 2017, the big question for me is: How do I attract and retain solid, reliable sales professionals? This is just one of many rhetorical questions that I intend to explore, in full transparency, as I engage on this journey. If you’re a creative, entrepreneur or techie, then you know that so much of what we do is trial and error, and just learning as we go. That’s what this blog is all about. I welcome your feedback and best practices, and I invite you to learn from my experiences, blunders and successes, in real time, as we meet here weekly. Stay tuned!

Also published on Medium.

2 Comments New Years Resolutions are for Suckers…Here’s mine.

  1. Ryan Smith

    Joe, that’s great feedback and I agree with the buckets of strategies you have listed. For a startup just finding or still finding product-market fit, I think #1 is often out of reach from a resources perspective.

    I like #2 and I think it’s the best strategy for a young startup. However, I’d couple that persistence and natural tenacity of a young person with a strong culture of institutionalized training and mentorship. You want people that are going to work, be persistent, and STAY with you in the long run. If you’re resigned to just churning and burning through a role then you won’t ever break the cycle. You have to couple finding someone young and persistent while giving your people every chance and tool to succeed. I firmly believe good management is setting your people up for success.

    #3 is also appealing to startup founders. Startup founders should always be selling even after they’ve reached the place of having someone replace them in that role. Founders should definitely divest and hire specialists as they hit growing pains, like Sterling suggested (find people to execute the vision) but they should try and get deep as possible in these early roles while not hurting the growth of the company.

    1. Joe

      Ryan –

      I’m not quite sure how to start this reply but have you seen the shawshank redemption?

      You seem like the version of Morgan Freeman that continuously gets denied parole. The way you analyzed my “buckets” and offered measured improvements to these approaches like you were grading my work, reeks of a man that’s always trying to apply everything academia says creates success but it hasn’t happened yet. So the man continues to draw the five forces on whiteboards because that’s what he’s been taught to do but still no parole.

      I’m the Morgan Freeman that tells the review committee to do whatever they want because I’m tired and don’t give a damn, then I get paroled.

      I’ve been in school for business and been in real life business. I already got an A in real life business which is why I’m offering Sterling actual advice, not theory, cuz I been there.

      I’ve hired and fired salespeople. I’ve raised VC, been patted on the head by investors, had disagreements with investors, bought out investors, I’ve succeeded, then failed, then succeeded and will probably fail again but this advice is real because I lived it, I didn’t read it in a textbook. I’m the man in the arena (Teddy Roosevelt quote which if you’re not familiar with should be every entrepreneur’s doctrine).

      Okay, now let me offer advice on strategy #2: this is something I’ve already explained to Sterling. Those young, cheap base salary salespeople are like dogs. When you smack them with a newspaper, the good ones always come right back to please you. If you are too cash strapped for option #1, then you can fucking forget developing a training/mentoring program. That takes a tremendous amount of resources (specifically the time of the founders, very distracting) I’m only advocating this for the salespeople, not developers or any other skill set, but you need to hire and fire en masse until you get those hammers.

      What always soothed me through the firing process was thinking about all the experienced salespeople that fucked me. They used me, this is capitalism, nut up.

      And by firing them, you’ll be doing them a favor. Just like Robert Jordan’s theory on tipping strippers, if they don’t make money doing it, maybe they’ll find a line of work that suits them better.


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