So I see a lot of folks give the same piece of advice, which I do think has a lot of truth in it:

“Be careful with titles.  They’re almost impossible to fix later.”

Almost every successful founder has a story where they made someone a VP or even a CRO or CMO that didn’t really deserve it and it just created headaches down the road.  They weren’t ready to be a real VP, and/or they needed to bring in a “true VP” a few months down the road, and the hire quit.

A common hack is to start someone off as “Head of ______” and see where it goes.  IMHO, if the candidate is OK with that, go for it.  The best don’t mind proving themselves.  The rest push back, however 😉

But as with many things, my views have gotten a bit more nuanced over time.  I’ve observed, for example, a lot of “go-getters” really, really want the CRO title now.  Maybe it’s worth it as a prize.  And a lot of folks who really are VPs of Marketing want to be CMO.  Does it matter?

I’ve learned to flip this around.

The biggest perceived issue is that you have to top someone with an inflated title later. I.e., it’s hard to bring in a CRO above a VP … if that VP already has the CRO title ;).  But the reality is, this is fixable.  That’s what “SVP” was invented for.  Or you just, as painful as it may be, change someone that is a VP now into a “VP of Commercial” or something similar.  It’s painful to fix, but it can be fixed.  You top who you need to top.

No what I’ve learned is a much bigger issue is when they can’t do the job.  The sales leader that can’t really build a team that wants to be VP.  The marketing director that wants to be VP, but can’t really own the commit.  Etc. etc.

So if you think they truly can quickly grow into the title, and that’s the only issue in the hire, I say maybe give it to them.

But if you aren’t 100% sure they can grow into it — don’t do it.

A simple but perhaps helpful thought when building your first management team.

(image from here)

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