The day Martin Smith left his post as E-Commerce Director at Sinclair Institute there was a large vacuum left behind. Martin was a formally trained, pure bred marketer who had a vision of a perfect and profitable future.
Who do you look to when filling a position like that? I think there are 3 distinct options.
- A 25 year veteran who has been leading teams of skilled specialists who will cost you a fortune, but you can be pretty sure that the job will get done. This person will be the one guiding the company. They have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to pull from that can help everyone become better marketers.
- A warm body that has some experience in direct marketing. Nothing terrible in their past, but nothing remarkable either. Visionary is not a word you normally associate with this person. This person will do the job, probably not do anything really dumb and be in their office everyday.
- A person who seems capable but has almost no experience in leading a team and doing the political work that managers and directors are forced to do. They are “too young” and “inexperienced” but have the respect of their co-workers because they’re always doing the hard work. They are first in and last out everyday. They respond to emergencies that need attention even if it’s not their responsibility. They are a 27-year-old linchpin.
Choice #1 is safe, but few choose it because of the up front cost. They will no doubt be twice or three times the cost of choice #2.
Choice #2 is often the choice. She’s cheap and competent.
I’d like to make the case for #3.
To us old guys, a 27-year-old seems like a slightly advanced high schooler, but at 27 some people are leading hundreds of soldiers in pitch battles, overseeing the largest social media site in the world or writing speeches the entire world listens to. We love the 27-year-old captain or major that comes home from overseas with a silver star pinned on his chest… we just won’t hire him to lead a team in our company.
My advice would be to nurture and take advantage of your opportunity for a win/win situation. You can get #3 for cheap. Instead of $250K for #1, or even $90K for #2, you can probably get #3 for $70K. Give them 12 or 18 months to prove themselves, maybe with a kick ass bonus if everything goes right. If everything goes wrong at month 3, you tell them and they can drop back to their previous position where they were crushing it anyway
They’ll be disappointed, but they’ve also gained fantastic experience, meaning they are more valuable to you.
They’ve been tempered and will be able to withstand more the next time.