I am currently reading Dan Lyons’ hilarious book “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” in which he processes his time at Cambridge, Massachusetts’ based startup HubSpot.
In the book, Dan makes reference to the Steve Jobs’ism “Bozo Explosion” – which describes the problems stemming from hiring B-Players into your team, as B-Players tend to hire C-Players (as they typically feel threatened by A-Players) and C-Players hire D-Players and so on… Leading to a dangerous downward spiral into Bozo-dom.
Here is why this becomes such a massive problem for many startups: No startup I ever interacted with engages in Bozo-dom on purpose. It just tends to happen as it is a) insanely hard to hire great talent (particularly when you are a little, unknown early-stage startup), b) everybody is permanently under immense time pressure and c) often the hiring managers are just not that experienced themselves.
In software development, we have the concept of “technical debt” – the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. The same happens with hiring: All too often we see early employees, who weren’t chosen all that well to begin with, rising through the ranks and sadly being ill-prepared (and sometimes just not capable) for the demands of their ever-expanding roles.
As my former boss and now Greylock VC partner John Lilly says: Scaling your business is not only all about product, product, product – but also people, people, people. Having the right people on board is paramount to your success and your ability to scale.