The Single Company Theory

Meet Evan Goldberg. In 1998 he was a young protege of Larry Ellison (you know, that Oracle dude?) . So Evan and Larry cook up an idea for a web-enabled small business sw company called Netledger which would be a competitor of Quickbooks (made by Intuit) .

The company started small but soon grew very very quickly.

    "By 2000, NetLedger had launched its Web-store application. By 2001, it had delivered its own sales-force-automation application. With that came the realization that it no longer made sense for Goldberg to serve as both CEO and chief technology officer. "

    "'My whole career,' he says, 'I've allied myself with somebody who lives and breathes sales and marketing so I can live and breathe the technology and product design.' He knew he needed a professional CEO. His first choice lasted just a year and is now a VP at Intuit."

So Evan decided to hire a headhunter. Now remember this is Silicon Valley in 2001 just after the meltdown. There must be plenty of interesting candidates around right? What did the headhunter do?

    "...the executive recruiter sent an e-mail to virtually every executive at Intuit with a subject head reading: 'Larry Ellison.' The message said Ellison was starting a great company that was going to be huge....Despite the aggressive approach, no successful candidates turned up. "

Aggressive might be one way to describe this recruiting campaign. I don't know if I would consider it the smartest way to recruit. First of all if I am working on a search and the client wants someone from a direct competitor that isn't generally a problem. However when the client wants to target one specific competitor then there is a problem. Unless your competitor is so weak relative to your self that people are dying to leave you're fooling yourself if you think people are going to drop everything and run over to your little startup - however compelling your story is.

Second people are funny. If you get called by a recruiter - even if you are not looking and have no intention of moving it feels flattering. I never really understood that concept until I myself was the subject of a recruiting call from a very well known high profile headhunter here in Toronto. Even though the opportunity never panned out I will never forget how I felt that day. And I was a recruiter myself - I made hundreds of these very same calls every day.

But that feeling gets dampened down pretty quickly if you find out that everyone in your office is getting the same call. The message: your not special -we'll take anyone. Even if you have 100 openings and send out 50 emails to people in one company they will still feel that way.

This makes it difficult on recruiters because we want to talk to as many people as possible however most of us learn the hard way that you just don't do multiple calls (or e-mails) to one office. It's no wonder no successful candidates turned up.

If you trying to hire that next superstar remember to evaluate your industry. If you are in a small field and you are the biggest player in that field then you will probably have no trouble attracting people. If you aren't the top company don't expect people from the company with the most market share jump up from their mahogany desks and corner offices and run over to your little operation above a pizza joint. Not unless you are offering a substantial increase in responsibility, or a substantial increase in pay. And if you really want to attract them offer both.

But if you think your going to be successful by singling out one company and insisting the person come from there, you are dead wrong.

BTW Evan eventually found his CEO. You can read the whole story here.

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