When you are in startup-mode you tend to hire only when the workload of each individual becomes so high that you simply know that more hands on deck are needed. This is called “Hiring behind the curve”. Once they become better funded a lot of startups switch to a different mode: They hire in anticipation of work. That’s what is referred to as “Hiring ahead of the curve”. And this is usually the moment companies fuck up.
What happens in the “hire behind the curve”-mode is, is that you develop a deep understanding of the work which needs to be done, the opportunity and the trade-offs — as you are the one doing it. You can go out and hire a person who is a perfect fit. Someone you can set up for success and someone who will have an immediate and lasting impact. Someone who will withstand the “What do you do here?”-litmus test.
If you “hire ahead of the curve” though you’re mostly flying blind: You are hiring people for positions which don’t exit yet, for work which is not clearly defined, for opportunities which are not fully scoped. You might end up hiring the wrong guy for the wrong job.
Organizations, as they grow, have a tendency to switch from “behind” to “ahead”. They call it planning. I call it mostly bullshit and politics; often driven by politics, by people building fiefdoms.
Granted — it’s not easy to run an organization which hires behind the curve. Everyone will feel a bit more stressed as everyone has to work a bit more. Yet it’s so worth it. We did this at eBay Germany — an organization which was so efficient and effective that our US colleagues studied us in awe and admiration.
This can be you. It is your choice.