So my LinkedIn feed is full of sales execs complaining how unfair startups are:
- VPs get fired seemingly without cause (it’s never that simple, though. No sane CEO wants to move on from a VP that’s performing).
- Startups not even hitting 40% quota attainment (more common these days, and brutal indeed).
- Layoffs continuing and in some cases accelerating, and going deep enough to really hit some of the best.
Are expectations for VPs of Sales, CROs, and CMOs too high? Probably.
Is this fair? Perhaps not.
But here’s the thing that I think many miss. VC-backed startups can be an incredible journey. I’ve founded several and invested in 25+, including 6 true unicorns. We’ve done incredible things.
There’s a contract in venture-backed startups, and it’s not an easy one to meet. It’s to do everything humanly possible to achieve hyper-growth.
This isn’t for everybody, and in fact, it isn’t for most. Don’t sign up for this contract and journey if it’s not for you.
95%+ of folks should not be in leadership in venture-backed startups, and 90% of folks shouldn’t work at them even as ICs.
If the pressure to hit bigger numbers every quarter doesn’t seem fair, or what you want — don’t sign up for it:
1, Join a bigger, ideally public SaaS company
2. Join something profitable, or bootstrapped. Doesn’t make it easier, but it is different.
3. Don’t be a VP. Stay an IC — and maybe make a lot more money, or the same.
Understand the plan — and the race to $200m ARR
If it doesn’t sound right, if it doesn’t sound like you — it’s OK. Far too many people join venture-backed startups.
Startups seemed like No Risk, All Return in 2021. It was a Unicorn-a-Day back then.
But that never made any real sense. Startups are for Pirates and Romantics. For those that want to truly be owners, and to do crazy things. To create things from nothing. To finally get a chance to do it their way. And to sign up to do something really, really big. And hard.
Everyone else, join something with at least 250-500 employees. Maybe more.
And if you’re looking at being a VP for the first time, taking your shot — startups can enable you. Then can empower you. They can let you run. Just understand in turn, you have to run as well.
And hopefully, the outcome will be great.
Finally, if you really took your shot, and it didn’t work out, but you truly gave it your all. Hold your head high. You went for it. You did something most never do. Most never can really be Pirates. And most aren’t true believes, or Romantic. Dust yourself off, and just go do it again.
A related post here:
(Not for Me image from here)