June 15, 2006
Counter Cliche: Sometimes You Need a Shortstop
Fred’s Chiche of the Week this week is about drafting the best available (corporate) athlete. I think he’s right lots of the time, especially in startup companies where people need to wear multiple hats. And it might also be a good rule of thumb in larger companies, when you want to have flexibility to move managers around from group to group and get them to easily take on new challenges or responsibilities.
But sometimes, you just need a shortstop, and if you were the GM of a baseball team, your manager or owner would be pretty ticked off if you went out and hired a decathlete for the job. Companies who are in the "medium size" stage (and probably larger companies as well, under certain circumstances) are often creating new functions and departments that require people with specialized knowledge or experience, whether domain or functional, to get the business to the next level. So you may want the most versatile shortstop you can find (maybe one who could play second or third base in a pinch), but at a minimum you need a great middle infielder.
One of my other board members, Greg Sands, described the phenomenon of companies growing out of the startup stage once to me as a comparison to cell development in small organisms. As the organism grows, cells have to specialize for the organism to adapt to its new environment. I guess this post could also have been called "sometimes you need a spleen," but that wouldn’t have been appropriately sporting given the original Cliche.