You know how everyone says you'll never look and wish you'd kept a bad VP as long as you did?
That when you make a mis-hire, you'll always look back and say you should have made a change 3-4 month earlier?
Well, everyone is right
— Jason ✨BeKind✨ Lemkin ⚫️ (@jasonlk) September 24, 2020
A lot of classic SaaStr advice has been how to spot the best potential VPs. When to hire them. How to interview them and qualify them. What they really do. Etc. etc. Some classics here:
Because to scale, you are going to need to add a true management team, and then a second one, and then layers of management. Otherwise, your growth will hit a wall.
And you’re are going to hire some VPs that … just don’t work out. It likely will be more your fault than theirs. After all, you know the most about your company. So it’s your job to make 100% sure it’s a good match — not the prospective VP’s job to figure this out. At least, not 100%.
When you do make a mis-hire, you just can’t fix it at the VP level. The VP is the owner of their department. You have to move on. And the faster you do it, the better. The fewer weak hires they continue to make. The less of your scarce capital they spend. The less they slow down feature development. The fewer customers that end up just … unhappy.
Let’s take a look at what happens when you make a mis-hire … so you can spot the signs and move on fast.
Signs of a mis-hire at VP of Sales:
- Revenue Per Lead, or at least Net New Bookings, Do Not Go Up in 1 Sales Cycle. If their bag of tricks doesn’t work at least a little ASAP, they can’t do it.
- No one great joins them in first 60 days. The best VPs of Sales quickly hire great reps under them. Everyone else? They hire weak, too junior folks. SDRs for AE roles that have never sold before. SMB reps doing enterprise deals. Etc. etc.
- Deals slow down. You’ll hear lots of excuses, but non-great VP of Sales will struggle to learn how to sell your specific product. Discounting and sales cycles go up. Close rates go down. And deals … they just slow down.
Signs of a mis-hire at VP of Marketing / Demand Gen:
- Qualified Leads Don’t Increase. This is the job.
- No alignment with sales. If your head of marketing and head of sales aren’t close … something is off. This doesn’t mean they are BFFs. But they should be partners. And marketing’s job is to help sales. If sales doesn’t think they are getting help — you don’t have a real VP of Marketing.
- Marketing costs just too high. You have to be careful here to make sure you know what’s going on, but marketing costs should of course go up once you hire a head of marketing. You have to spend more to get more leads. But a weak VP of Marketing often spends with too much abandon, and not enough rigor. If your cost to acquire a lead go from low to way too friggin’ high — that’s a sign. A sign they don’t know how to do demand gen, especially.
Signs of a mis-hire at VP of Customer Success:
- NPS / CSAT don’t improve. This is the job.
- Net retention doesn’t go up. This is the job.
- Churn stays elevated and doesn’t go down, at least a bit. That is the job.
- Activation rates don’t go up. This is also the job. Those hard-earned customers have to go live. And a great VP of CS will make sure more of them do. This is very easy to quickly impact.
- If you see a lot of motion, but no KPI improvements in CS … you didn’t hire a VP. You hired an IC that talks the talk, but can’t do the walk.
Signs of a mis-hire at VP of Engineering:
- Story points don’t go up pretty quickly. VPEs know this is critical to increasing output and productivity.
- Too many complaints about too many customer segments, technical debt, infrastructure, etc. Look this is all true. 99.9% of all VPEs join and take over a mess of Rube Goldberg-esque code and a hack that just won’t scale. And there are too many customer demands, and a weak infrastructure. But you know what? Cry me a river. The job is to figure out how to get past this, and still ship more great code, and stay up and scale.
- Sales gets less. Fewer features, less attention. Just “less” from engineering. There should be a healthy tension between Product + Eng in most orgs and Sales. Sales pushes for more features to close more deals. Eng complains and asks for more proof points. But no matter how big of a deal this tension is, it always gets better and improves with a great VP of Eng. They know their customer is often, in part, the sales team. They enjoy that dynamic, at least in part. And they use some of those extra story points to make those deals close more easily. If tensions with sales go up after a VP Eng joins — that’s a flag it isn’t going to work out. Ever. At least, not at your company. Sometimes, these folks can move on to a more self-service environment and still thrive.
When you see these flags, sure you can wait a little while to see if it gets better. But when it doesn’t — you’ll know. You’ll know you should have made a change months ago.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)