Tom Critchlow
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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:

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 Recruitment?

Why am I going to be good at this?

NBED more here.

Consultant vs Recruiter?

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:

(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:

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:

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


This blog is written by Tom Critchlow, an independent strategy consultant living and working in Brooklyn, NY. If you like what you read please leave a comment below in disqus or sign up for my Tinyletter.