Dear SaaStr: Dear SaaStr: What Differentiates a “Real” VP?

While the answer may sound obvious, I’m not sure it always is in early-ish stage start-ups.

The role of a VP is to own everything required to hit the goals for a functional area – Sales, Marketing, Product, Engineering, Finance, or Customer Success.

This includes:

  • Recruiting the team. This can be hard.  And many first-time VPs have never done this.  It’s often 20%-30% of the job.
  • Hitting the number. And owning coming up short. No “best efforts”.  True VPs have their own core goal, hit it, and explain why misses happen — and address them.
  • Figuring it out. Not being told what to do. Figuring out how to hit the goals for this month, quarter and year in your department.
  • Evolving & Growing. The job spec will change over the course of each 6–12 months. A lot.
  • Instilling Confidence and Managing Up and Down. Leading the rest of the company to achieve your department goals.

The challenge then becomes, can a “stretch” VP do these 5 things?

If so, it’s a stretch well made. If not, you aren’t hiring a real VP. You’ll end up needing to hire someone else, probably much sooner than you planned.

You do want to bet on stretch VPs.  That’s the right answer for most of us, most of the time.  But they have to be able to truly do the job above.  Otherwise, it’s a stretch too far.

A related post and a bit more:

The Double-Stretch Hire Rarely Works Out

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)

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