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ladder challenge

Flubbing that big expensive hire

Half of the hires you make need to take your agency further from their very first day. But you can go too far with that concept – hiring far out ahead of your supply lines.

Half of the employees your business hires should come with a level of experience that means they are able to take your agency further from their very first day on the job. The easy test for that is whether you can picture them delivering an agency-wide seminar where everyone soaks up some insight.

But you can go too far with that concept – hiring far out ahead of your supply lines, stretching with the compensation package, hoping to be in the big leagues.

Leaping so many rungs on the ladder all at once can lead to you losing your footing, can be tricky to pull off and often ends with that first big expensive hire not working out.

Here’s what you need to be aware of, to improve the likelihood of it working first time:

  • Your expectations are sky high and it’s difficult to meet them. Any perceived lack of performance gets a magnifying glass and that new hire doesn’t get much of a leash.
  • They’ve come from an environment where they delegated to lots of other people and they just can’t adapt to a smaller, more entrepreneurial firm where everybody makes their own photocopies.
  • Their past performance stems from their connections and the surrounding cast, and neither of those come with the package. They are on their own and struggle to replicate the same performance.
  • Teamwork is a challenge for them anyway, but they positively dismiss teamwork with what they might perceive as “B” players. They might be reluctant to share the spotlight.
  • They see themselves as above the processes that you’ve worked hard to develop and spent personal capital enforcing.

So those are some dangers to think about. They’re worth thinking about, though, because hiring folks with great experience is often a risk worth taking. The biggest change I love to see from such hires is this one thing: they help you price your work with so much more confidence. They don’t blink an eye asking for the money that you’ve wet your pants asking for in the past.

The more problematic positions to reach for are business development, account service, and operations, whilst safer positions to reach up for include creative director and account planner.

While that first hire doesn’t typically work, the second does – maybe because so much gets learnt from the first time around, especially in setting expectations. I’m hoping this brief note can help you skip the mistakes that come with the first. Sort of like the guy that sits down at a cafe and asks about the price of coffee. “The first cup is £1 but the second cup is free,” and the guys says, “Well, I’ll take the second cup, then.”

Stretch, but stretch within reason. Otherwise the experiment will sour you on what otherwise could be a good idea.

About: David C. Baker

David is Principal of ReCourses, a management consulting firm he founded in 1994, focused on helping the advertising, design, interactive, and public relations industries.

David has done in-depth consulting with 800+ marketing firms, written four well-received books, speaks at approx. 30-35 conferences per year, and has had his work discussed in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company. Inc. Magazine, Forbes, MarketingProfs, BusinessWeek, and CBS.

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