20 November 2022
"Never hire ahead of the curve!"
This reminds me of the time I drove from Fattiehead to Wetwang.
Somebody please tell me why there are such funny town names in the UK? On that note I found this the other day, it tells you the meaning behind city names in the UK.
When you go on a long drive, you carefully consider what you’re going to pack for a snack and a drink along the way.
Like should I take one bottle of whiskey or two?
My strategy involves packing grub based on my estimation of how long until I get hungry or thirsty.
A bottle of water and a few granola bars usually does the trick.
And off we go… tuck tuck, broom brooom…
Oooh I’m feeling a bit peckish, let’s munch away on a granola bar.
A few sips of water, a few more and a few more…
My bladder is blowing up like a balloon.
I start feeling the pressure - it's potty time.
“Yes Waze!” I know I shouldn’t be fiddling around with you while I’m driving.
But why can’t you just give me 1 bloody petrol station.
No, instead there’s a list of a hundred to choose from.
Trust me, you don’t want to choose the first one...
Last time I picked the one at the top of the list, I ended up in another country!
So now you need to check which one is closest, cheapest if you’re getting petrol, has pet loos, one where you won’t get mugged, has working toilets and a cubicle with more than one strip of toilet paper that isn't laying in a puddle of piss from the previous user - something you preferably would have had discovered before you released the flood gates!
Finally a toilet that is accessible without a loo key that is the size of a hammer wrench, so that everyone knows "he’s going for a poo!"
“Waze, bear with me!”
Because, now the clever calculation starts.
Let’s try a Bell Curve chart for this one.
On the x axis, the time it will take to get to our destination.
Along the y axis, the size of my bladder.
Plotted along that chart are the various petrol station stops.
Here’s what it looks like in my head…
If I wee “ahead of the curve”, I'd probably be a bit calmer.
But I’ll need to stop more often along the way and it will take me longer to get to Wetwang - provided I go at the same constant speed.
As the chart below illustrates…
I kinda want to stop “just in time” at a petrol station that appears perfectly like an oasis in a desert.
As I continue to ponder the optimal time to stop for a pee, I casually drive past junction 51 that would have taken me to the nearest service station in Leeming Bar.
The next one is 10 miles away!!!!!
Now I’m “behind the curve” and seriously at risk of turning my seat into a kiddy paddling pool.
I promise this thought process happens all the time when I drive long distances!
And I'll admit there may have been one or two times, when a few tinkles ended up “behind the curve”.
The moral of the story:
You can either stop drinking water and urinate rarely, hold your pee in till it hurts or invest in a jet to get you to the destination quicker. And if you don’t have the dosh to invest in a jet, well then you’re probably going to pitstop more often and have to accept that you’ll reach your destination slower.
As usual, this is not just about what “I” think and my bias on “never hire ahead of the curve” - we’ll be hearing from 5 others who regularly face the challenge of deciding the best time to hire a new team member.
What this week's contributors think of this aphorism?
Co-founder @ Jellyfish
"If you want to stay small and lean, then that's good advice"
Co-founder @ We Make Websites
"As with anything, it's not great to hire when you're desperate"
Co-founder @ Wholegrain Digital
"It’s not clear which curve you are hiring ahead of"
My reflections on "never hire ahead of the curve"
IMO ‘never’ is ‘almost always’ the wrong way to approach a tactic.
So I definitely disagree to ‘never’ hire ahead of the curve.
Most of our contributors this week have strong views that if you want to grow significantly (in Rob’s case that’s an agency with over 2,000 team members and Alex’ case it’s over 80 team members), you absolutely need to hire ahead of the curve.
In my research I found that the aphorism is actually more often shared as “hire ahead of the game” than the other way around. Michael Dell coined it in Direct From Dell in 1999.
In his book he said:
“I had hired them because they were good at what they did, not necessarily good for what they were going to have to do in the future.
If you hire people with the potential to grow far beyond their current position, you build depth and additional capacity into your organization.”
We agencies don’t tend to get external investment, which is why we are used to hiring whenever a specific problem needs fixing (e.g. a new client win, a bottleneck, lack of strategic innovation). It probably explains our obsession with trying to forecast utilisation.
However, hiring that way makes it harder to scale.
You end up with a huge wage bill and lots of inefficiencies.
The key is to build up the cash reserves to hire ahead of the curve, develop young people and recruit people who are willing and capable of moving into new positions. In other words, actually have a recruitment strategy.
This is probably one of the hardest things us agency leaders have to get right. But my money is on lots of hiring ahead of the curve.
Appreciate you taking the time today to read our Polynut newsletter. Any comments, ideas or questions - feel free to reach out.
And a HUGE THANK YOU to our contributors for giving up their time to share their wisdom with us! 🙏
See ya next week!
The Rabbit Hole: Charts
This week I've been inspired by charts.
But not just any Word Doc clip art charts.
These charts will tickle you in all the right places.
Blindspot: Risk assessment
For the celebrities reading my newsletter 💁🏻♂️, you’ll probably be very familiar with everything I am about to talk about. But even if you’re from a prominent family with significant wealth this is equally common knowledge to you. For everyone else (including me), let’s close the gap on this blindspot.