Welcoming Our First Hire: Why We Chose a VP of Growth
Building a startup is hard no matter whether it’s your first time, your fifth time, or somewhere in between. Previously, we wrote about the things to get right from the beginning. Possibly the most important thing to get right from the beginning beyond having a great idea is surrounding yourself with great people. Choosing the right team members that fill gaps in your own expertise and who are able to change the trajectory of the business quickly when you bring them on is critical at this stage.
I’m a technical person by trade, an entrepreneur and businessperson by experience, but sales and marketing have always been my weak spot. I’ve been pondering my first full time hire in Durham for a few months now, having coffees and lunches with close friends and advisors and soaking up advice. In the course of trying to understand what first hire was best I read an article by Jason Lemkin in which he described that you can never hire a great VP too early. Scrolling through the comments on the post I came across Steve Roop, former VP of Marketing of AppDynamics and CRO of Glassdoor. Steve was thoughtfully recounting his experience being the first non-engineering hire at AppDynamics. After some notes back and forth, Steve was gracious enough to spend some time with me discussing his experiences being the first (or the only) sales and marketing hire in engineering-driven organizations. He also was able to share his framework for what makes a great VP of Marketing and marketing organization, pointing me in the direction of someone who is growth-minded and systems-focused. I left the call clear on my path.
Because we were targeting a potentially big market I knew it would be important for us to not only build a great technical culture, but also set the stage early with the right kind of sales and marketing culture. It’s hard enough to find great sales leaders and great marketing leaders. Trying to find someone who’s great at both – that’s a purple squirrel. I knew I needed to have great marketing strategy, processes, and systems to help define a great set of sales processes and systems and so I set out to find someone who was predominately marketing-focused with a growth mindset; someone that wasn’t afraid to get out in front of customers and prospects and talk about our product. As I researched further, I found this type of role was often titled “Head of Growth Marketing”, “Growth Hacker”, or “Growth Manager”. I settled on calling it a VP of Growth.
Crafting a job description, I was convinced that the ideal candidate was a proven and natural leader with a successful track record of developing, planning, and executing on customer acquisition, marketing, and other growth initiatives within early-stage SaaS startup environments. We needed someone who could collaborate with the Executive Team and take ownership of all top-down marketing efforts through development and implementation. This included content strategy, SEO, paid advertising, and social media in addition to devising, implementing, and evolving a lead generation strategy. The task for this first hire would be monumental and I needed someone who was extremely data-driven and process-oriented, someone fueled by the opportunity to take us from startup to scale-up.
And here’s where I’m thankful for my network as my connections led me straight to my first conversation with John, the former Director of Marketing for another local tech company, Automated Insights. Even as we were framing Peoplelogic’s core values, I knew John was a kindred spirit, excited by the possibility of changing how companies lead their people. John brings a wealth of experience in marketing and sales. He is also one of the few people in the Triangle that is a self-identified growth hacker, being a data-driven marketer who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty on the technical side and is often willing to be on the front lines visiting customers and talking to prospects.
After our first meeting I knew John was right for Peoplelogic and through the course of several more conversations we both found the right fit and John joined us on February 3rd as our VP of Growth and our first full-time local hire. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on board and our work together has already been fruitful. I’m excited to see where this journey takes us and look forward to partnering with John to make Peoplelogic wildly successful!
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