I am at the stage where my platform has launched and i'm trying to work out how best to fill the gaps that I leave - and i've pretty much come to the conclusion that that would be someone who is a bit of a social media / marketing whizz.
I have had a few discussions with a variety of people trying to get advice on how to proceed and how best to find someone to plug those gaps in these crucial weeks and months, and a lot of the responses I have got is that a marketing / social media marketing co-founder is highly unusual and that I need to plug other gaps first.
I have done a bit more research and checked out other questions asked here, but i'm curious - has anyone got any experience or thoughts on this one? Or are a marketing co-founder or hired one themselves?
Would be great to hear from any of you.
First of all, I would say that you are right to look to want to plug in the gaps by taking on an additional co-founder, and it would appear that the advice you have been given is being taken with a pinch of salt, so kudos.
You mentioned that it has been suggested to you to plug other gaps first, what are those gaps?
Based on the limited information provided, and the obvious fact you know what you need more than me, I would assess if what you think is needed going to move the needle the most. I won't go into the area of classifying what is usual and unusual in regards to needing somebody to fill in the gaps, but I will go into standardized roles and operational personnel at such a young startup age is unusual.
It's not about titles but about hats and who puts them on. A marketing and social media marketing co-founder to me is an oxymoron for a co-founder is all over the place. I am not talking about tasks being executed by those with relevant domain experience, but rather I don't know a single co-founder who has ever stuck to just their domain in a startup.
Now you may well need a co-founder whose primary professional domain is marketing, but s/he will need to go into other areas: sales, customer service, etc.
As for your other question "Or are a marketing co-founder or hired one themselves? "
1. In one startup, I am not a marketing co-founder, but rather a co-founder, the only area I am completely out of is the programming / technical.
2. In my own startups, I am not a marketing co-founder, but rather a co-founder, or to be exact the founder, and am in all areas. For one of the startups, If I don't find a suitable programmer for the MVP, I will do that myself as well. But the point is, although my primary professional domain was marketing for many years, it hasn't been just that for quite a while now, and hasn't ever been just that in any startup.
3. For startups in a startup studio, I typically look for two types of people with primary professional areas:
ii) Marketing / Sales (there is a distinction between the two, too long to address here, suffice to say, this person needs to be able to go and speak to potential customers and clients, face to face if need be.)
Basically one has to build it, the other sells it, or one is inwards facing, the other is outwards facing; but they absolutely need to have the potential to grow into areas, not to become experts, but to graft and grind to become good enough at that moment in time, and they need to put the other hats on.
COO type hat, CEO type hat, bobble-hat, jimmy-hat, whatever, someone needs to put the hat on and get on with it.
Daniel, Some good notions already in here, so all I will add is there is no one way or right way to do things in entrepreneurship. Lot of wrong ways, but not one all encompassing right way. And people in Co-Founder's lab often get preachy and approach things theoretically or in absolutes. My only absolute is that a business plan that is understood to be a living breathing organic document is always going to benefit an entrepreneur. So my suggestion is ALWAYS going to be to create a competent business plan first, and from this I absolutely guarantee the gaps and weak areas will present themselves. From that, you can make a more calculated move. And you can filter out all the talk of you must have this or must have that, or this person does this or this person does that. The business plan is the road map, the core, the foundation. Write that and where you can't answer the vital questions, bring someone in who can and more importantly implement the answers!
Thank you so much for the fantastic answer. I truly appreciate the time you have taken to respond with an insightful response.
With regards to other gaps - I definitely need development help. I have my MVP but I am interested in working with someone who can continuously build and improve the platform. This is definitely a phase 2 sort of requirement though.
I guess lately I have been thinking more linear. As in, I have this one job that needs done - let me find someone suitable for that job. Pushing forward I will broaden my horizons and look at a broader picture when attempting to plug these gaps and finding the help that I need.
I appreciate the advice and guidance you have provided - thank you again. I particularly enjoyed your hats thought :)
Have a wonderful weekend ahead.
Would love to learn more about your business and see if I can help you. I have experience with digital strategy for start-ups and small businesses.
This is a very valid and valuable point. Thank you for reminding me.
I do have my business plan and need to work on it and refer to it more in the future. I believe you're right when you say these weak areas will present themselves if I work smarter and better on the business plan.
Feel free to send me an email with more information, and we can go from there. My email can be found in my profile.
Thank you for the points, interesting points of view! I appreciate the time taken to write your response - thank you again.
My questions would be why co-founder and not staff member? And why social media? Are you hoping to not pay this person which is why you're calling them co-founder? Keep in mind that social media marketing isn't easy, nor are most people who think they're capable actually very capable in this area, in my 16 years of experience as a marketing guy. And it can require paying for some tools as well as funds to build your ad mix because social marketing doesn't actually equal free advertising.
There are six core business skills every business must master (or hire): marketing, sales, organization, people, efficiency, and leadership. Business owners typically come with just one of those skills and never master more than two themselves, which means they always need supplemental resources to run a successful business.
There's nothing unusual about a business co-owner who has a high talent in marketing. But they do tend to be idea people, and if in a place in their life where they could be a founder or co-founder, are often exploring their own ideas, not looking to support someone else's ideas. That said, there are plenty of marketing folks who enjoy the startup environment because it offers a lot more opportunity to be creative, having nothing that came before that needs to be adopted.
My guess is that if you're looking for marketing talent, you'll need to understand a bit more about the eight divisions of marketing in order to find someone who will be most useful to your business. Within marketing, folks can rarely be expert in more than two of those eight divisions, and PR stands completely by itself.
Good luck! And ask more questions if you have them.
Good questions. Yes, I am not in the position to pay anyone yet, but I am at a critical cross roads, where our social media efforts are going to play a huge part in the growth of the company, but I myself am no expert. So I feel this absolutely vital and important role can be filled in this way and should be given fair (as long as that person understands the situation of equity over salary)
Regarding paying for tools etc. I am in a position to be able to do that, but it is a thought I had not considered - i appreciate the prompt.
I appreciate your explanation regarding the areas of marketing, it really has given me a lot of information and a lot to think about. I do however think I am currently at a position where, it's a brand new company and platform, and we simply need a good social media presence and base. If getting someone in who has some experience and they can grow with me over time, I think it could be very valuable for the company in these early stages.
Thank you so much for the time taken to respond. I truly appreciate your thoughts and efforts in helping me.
Seb Robin from France. Excellent intelligent business professional. Look for him on LinkedIn
There are always going to be at least two founders: Engineering and Social. You cannot wear both hats simultaneously. You may be a highly intelligent person capable of all tasks, but by neurology must switch between them - attention allows for math or social, not both. Social needs inform UX/UI decisions that must be made in real time while code is being written. (This is pair programming.)
There's your baseline. People can talk till they're blue in the face about this or that anecdotal reasoning that someone may or may not be a founder, cofounder, employee, contractor, stooge, lackey, president, or what have you. Who cares?
What matters is that the people you partner with are your caliber. They can wear all the hats. They're the best at what they do not only because they were born with the talent, but because they've made the personal decision to do great things. Like you, they're willing to do what it takes to build something new. They can wear all the hats too.
Because you have to wear them both at once. It doesn't matter who wears which hat. (You'll have your favorite :D) But it takes two to tango. (Or better, any odd number.)
So find your favorite. Metaphorically, that person you have a beer with after work is the one you want as your cofounder. Of all the folks you can let your hair down with, who cares about what you're building? Who's excited about it? Who's your cheerleader?
Prior experience, expertise, talent, intelligence... these are all incremental multipliers for a common baseline: who gives enough of a crap to actually do it? Nothing will ever matter more than simply getting on like a buddy-comedy.
Good hunting :D