What Does Choosing a Puppy and Hiring Management Teams Have in Common?

June 15, 2010

Anyone who knows me understands that, when not working, I spend as much time as possible outdoors — including time hunting with my dogs. I have always been a fan of Labradors and my latest hunting companion is now 11 years old. So last year we decided to add a new Labrador puppy to the family this spring.

Some people may ask what this has to do with recruiting management teams. When choosing a hunting companion, life is too short to get a dog that won’t hunt since you hope to hunt with them for a dozen years or more. As a software venture capital firm, we also feel life is too short to make a hiring mistake.

When choosing a hunting dog, you need to consider the type of hunting you will do, the terrain and the characteristics in a dog you are looking for. Essentially, you have a job description that you are looking to fill.

In my case I wanted a dog that is a good family dog, gets along well with other dogs, easy to train, a versatile hunter for upland and waterfowl, a strong retriever and with an excellent pedigree or bloodlines.

When looking for a management team member, you need to create a job description that spells out what you want in the candidate for the company. One example would be a VP of Sales:

  • Has experience within SaaS companies
  • Managed an insides sales team
  • Has worked in a partner channel-driven model
  • Has built teams that have sold in the SMB space
  • Has start up experience versus large company experience

This is totally different than someone who:

  • Has experience in a traditional enterprise license sales model
  • Managed field sales teams
  • Worked in a direct sales model
  • Sold to fortune 500 companies
  • Has large company experience like EMC, IBM, SAP or Oracle

This is the combination of job description and pedigree or experience you are looking for.

Once you know what you want in a dog, you look for the right breeders. This is no different then when you are looking to hire the right recruiters. Experience with recruiters in the past or reference checking is critical when selecting a recruiter just like a dog breeder. Many recruiters specialize in recruiting for specific roles — just like breeder with specific breeds. Once you have chosen a recruiter, you need to agree upon the process you will follow.

The next step is to make sure you look at the whole litter of candidates (in this case there were 7 puppies).
During our interview process we looked at the puppies together in the litter. We then separated them out individually so we could spend time with them to observe the behavior and characteristics they displayed when on their own. We followed the same process with all of them. My wife was also involved in the selection process.

This is no different than when you look at the candidate pool and sort them into high probability candidates based on your job description, or when you do phone screening and then bring in as many candidates as possible who fit the criteria. Have your team involved in the interview and selection process. The more you look the better you will get at confirming the skills and background you want. In fact don’t be surprised if you refine the job description once you get started… most companies do.

We then narrowed it down to 2 puppies we felt would be a great fit for what we were looking for. We were comfortable that either one would be a great dog for us. In fact, in the picture you can see they are both different looking puppies with different physical characteristics.

Now comes the hard part. We spent more time with each puppy –individually playing with them, throwing a small dummy for the puppy to retrieve and observing behavior and socializing with them.

This again is no different than what you do when recruiting management team members. You spend more time with them, your team spends more time with them and you should also do it under different settings — in your office as well as casual settings like breakfast and dinner. In fact having the candidates prepare and present to the management team or board their thoughts on what actions they would take in the first 90 days in the role to learn the people and the business and then their thoughts on the next 90 days is a critical step in the process. They are auditioning for the role. It will give you a chance to see how they think about managing the business and operational execution and can often make the decision between your finalist candidates clearer.

We also checked references since both the mother and the father of the litter were there with their owners. Obviously, a key to selecting is the final candidate — be it a puppy or management team member.

Then it was decision time… we chose our puppy based on completing the process and weighing what we had observed during the time we had spent looking at the litter.

So when hiring management team members remember:

  • Create the job description
  • Select the right recruiter
  • Agree on the recruiting process and follow it with all candidates
  • Start with as large a candidate pool as possible
  • Be prepared to adjust your job description as you go through the process
  • Have your team involved in the selection and decision process
  • Spend time in both business and casual settings with the final candidates
  • Have the finalist candidates audition for the role by presenting to the team and or board
  • Choose the top candidate for your business

We are thrilled with our choice and I can’t wait until this fall, when I am with Bentley in the field chasing birds with my friends.

All the best!


Venture Partner

<strong>George Roberts</strong> is a Venture Partner at OpenView. He enjoys partnering with companies and helping them achieve their goals through strategy, focus and operational execution. From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.