VC Cliché of the Week

The sports world is a rich source of cliches and this week’s cliche comes from the draft process.

Many teams believe that instead of drafting players to fill holes they should simply draft the best available athlete. And I’ve argued plenty that entrepreneurs and CEOs should do the same when hiring, particularly early in the developement of their company.

We’ve all known that person growing up that was good in every sport; fast, agile, coordinated, strong, could play forever without tiring. It used to burn me to invite a friend to play a round of golf with me, a game I’ve played without mastering for thirty years. And they’d be as good as me even though they rarely played. But I’ve come to understand that some people are just natural athletes and I am not one of them.

The same is true in building companies. There are people who have great range in business. They can manage, they can sell, they understand technology, they can plot strategy, they can do most any job well. In one of my portfolio companies, we have a guy who was CFO. He was a great CFO, but he wanted to do more. The CEO promoted him to COO and he now runs all operations and technology. He could run strategy too, if he was asked. That’s what the best available athlete does. Whatever the company needs at a particular time.

And in a company that is young, that is particularly valuable. Because things change quickly. Gaps don’t last long. They get filled one way or another. But talent is hard to come by and really gifted people are few and far between.

So that’s why I most often recommend hiring the best available athlete. If you build a team full of people who can play any position, you are going to do really well. I am sure of it.