Q: We can't decide whether our vice president of marketing should be an expert in branding or product management.
A: The decision is based on two key factors.
1. At a minimum, marketing must support sales and channel with the materials they need to effectively sell your product.
2. Are your customers businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C)? Branding is much more important for consumers, less so for business clients. For B2B, product management is the critical navigator that researches the market and customers and makes decisions as to what to sell to whom. Without it, a company can get lost pretty quickly.
Q: We can't decide what the qualifications for a key hire should be. The executive team is split in their opinions. How do we proceed?
A: The reason you can't decide is that the various stakeholders are projecting off their individual experience, each with a slightly different version of the position in mind. Sit everyone down together, construct a flow chart and review the current state, business goals, what you want this hire to accomplish and what they need to know to be successful. Treat it as an equation rather than an opinion poll, and you will quickly come to a consensus.
Q: We can't decide if a sales executive hire needs to come from our industry or not.
A: There are two factors for deciding whether a sales executive must have industry experience. One is knowledge of deeply complex products, the other is a great Rolodex in the industry. If those two are critical, then an industry hire is indicated. But remember:
1. Hiring from across industries will give you a much larger talent pool of successful salespeople.
2. A great sales executive who sold in a similarly complex industry should be able to make the transition quickly.
3. Hiring for a "great Rolodex" often disappoints.
4. Most important is hiring a consistently successful sales performer from an industry that has similar product complexity and goes to market in a similar way as you.
Evaluating organizational structure
Q: We've doubled in size the past year. Is our organizational structure still optimal?
A: You have probably outgrown your organization structure if you are growing that fast. A wise person once told me that organizational structures change at various employee counts — 25, 50, 150, 400, etc.
What was optimal becomes a hindrance.
He compared it to a grasshopper outgrowing its shell: First it fits, then it's tight, then it's sitting on the head like a hat.
Grasshoppers, of course, molt without having intent. Organizations need to re-engineer their structure and governance periodically to ensure they are operating at peak efficiency.
Isaac Cheifetz is an executive recruiter and strategic résumé consultant based in the Twin Cities. His website is www.catalytic1.com.