Why I'm Getting Into Recruitment
And how it pairs with my consulting work
This post is a draft
It was a lonely Tuesday, the 24th of Feburary 2015. I left the office late, without fanfare. It was my last day at the company and no one seemed to notice. This was a client of mine, I’d been working out of their office 3 or 4 days a week for two months as their interim VP of marketing. Sooner than expected they found someone to come on board full time and that was the end of my engagement.
I’m dramatizing slighlty but the insight is true - there’s a gap between consulting and in-house work. It’s often postioned as an either/or choice when in fact the truth is more nuanced. Most of my consulting engagements should naturally end in me hiring someone to continue the work and processes that I’ve helped to set up.
After all, strategy without execution is worthless.
The Lightbulb Moment
The second half of 2015 I landed on a new client. After an initial workshop I walked out the door with a clear vision that they needed to hire - needed to build a new marketing team to support the kind of growth they wanted. So I got stuck in. I believed in the company I was working with, thought they had a great team already and they paid well. I reached out to my network to help find the right people for them.
This engagement helped me realize a few key things:
- Building a marketing org is hard if you don’t have any marketing leadership already
- Hiring itself is a skill and a lot of young companies are not good at it
- There is a lot of value in a network and reputation built up in the industry
Which leads me to my current new mission:
I help mid-size startups solve marketing problems and build marketing teams by providing strategy and connecting them to marketing talent.
How I Got Here
I started my career in SEO - the nuts and bolts of keywords, analytics, link building and content. I came to New York in 2011 with Distilled, to open a new office and build a new outpost for the company. Looking for something new I jumped to Google for a couple of years where I worked with the Creative Lab. In late 2014 I went out on my own to build an art business with Erin and start my path as an independent.
The past year and a bit I’ve spent consulting. Mostly marketing consulting, sometimes SEO consulting. I had high hopes for the kind of work I’d be able to get out of the gate and the lesson learned in 2015 is that spreading your wings is like growing a flower - consistent, slow, deliberate work. But sped up over a timelapse it’s incredble to see the range of motion and the amount accomplished.
Why am I going to be good at this?
- I have a strong network of diverse people across startups, marketing and tech.
- A deep expertise in marketing allows me to truly understand both the problems a client is facing and the kinds of people who will be good at working on those problems.
- I’ve done a lot of hiring over the years
NBED more here.
Consultant vs Recruiter?
Every mid-stage startup in NY is looking for a head of marketing these days... and almost none of them know what they're looking for.— chris muscarella (@cm) December 30, 2015
This tweet is true - though a little strongly worded in my opinon. There are lots of things that mid-stage startups don’t know what they’re doing! That’s the fun of it. But it’s true - marketing and growth are abstract concepts for a lot of mid-size startups. They’ve not yet defined all of the inputs and outputs and haven’t figured out processes. So they look for someone to lead them through the answers to these questions and to build a team.
But these are two different things.
It’s important not to choose too soon. I’m obviously biased but a good consultant can still get deep in the weeds and help you think about problems in different ways while providing incredibly fast execution and a flexible approach. A lot of my work this past year has been on-site with clients, embedded with teams and helping to add advice but more importantly help show my client how I think, how I approach problems and provide some experience about what works and what doesn’t while recognizing that each problem needs a fresh pair of eyes and an open mind.
In short, just because you’re struggling with growth doesn’t mean that hiring a “VP of growth” will solve your problems. Often, founders feel like they don’t have the marketing experience or knowledge to manage and lead a marketing team. But for the most part that’s not true - yes as the company grows hiring a manager to lead the team makes sense but to think they’ll solve all of your growth issues is naive.
Here are some things to consider before hiring a full VP marketing:
- A workshop with the leadership to figure out marketing goals, objectives and activities. Often there are plenty of things that are known to be worth doing but just haven’t been done yet. That doesn’t need an expensive VP marketing, that needs doers. People who can execute with a bit of experience.
- Working with an agency to execute some specific deliverables - the nice thing about a lot of agencies is that you get access to a wide range of talent, ideas and experience. Work with the agency on the specific deliverables but don’t forget that they’ve seen a ton of different clients and know what works and what doesn’t.
- Working with a consultant to come in-house and sit with your team, especially if you have a junior team that can learn from having someone physically present.
(Spoiler alert: I can help you do all of the above! Who said this was an unbiased blog post eh?)
The 18 Month Mistake
Just quite how bad is it to make a mistake with your head of marketing? Back of the envelope math says something like:
- 3 months bedding in
- 3 months of work in the wrong direction or on the wrong things
- 3 months of extrication, pain and eventually termination of contract
That puts you 9 months in the hole. But then there’s the opportunity cost - you’re now 9 months behind where you would be if you’d hired the right person! Who would about now be 6 months into working on the right things and building the right way. Oh, and it’s going to take you 3 months to find the right person and bring them in after this mess.
All of which is to say that hiring is important, delicate and sometimes the benefit of hiring a consultant is that you can stay agile while still getting some forward progress.
Some Guiding Principles
Hiring is serious work. The concepts of work, money, employment and health insurance are not to be joked about. I’ve been involved in hiring people of both genders, many races and diverse backgrounds. But there’s more to be done. I’m just starting out but here’s a few things I think are important:
- Equality - spend more time working with and supporting women, minorities and those without a priviliged background.
- Longterm thinking work with candidates and companies beyond the inital hiring.
- Education educate companies on best practices for hiring and treating candidates fairly and kindly.
- Human recruiting be kind and considerate to all involved, no spam.
Basically - give a shit about the people and treat everyone with respect. This means getting involved well before and beyond just the moment of hiring. I’ve been involved in building positive cultures when I work in-house, what does this look like in
So get in touch!
The magic always happens over coffee doesn’t it? Let’s chat. If you’re a mid-size company looking to hire some senior leadership folks or if you’re working in marketing and thinking about a new job just drop me a line: [email protected].
Email this post to:
Amit Andrew (betaworks) Arnold Jonathan libov Taylor Greene Pond5/Wistia VC Gary Chou August folks