This is a guest post by Eric Fulkert.
In the startup sector, we have two types of unicorns. The first is a company that manages to raise money at a billion dollar plus valuation. The second unicorn is the unicorn hire. Unicorn hires are mythological job descriptions for individuals that don’t exist. I see the descriptions of these unicorns everywhere. Here are a few examples.
-“I’m looking for a part time UI/UX person that has a finance background. You must know Bootstrap framework and be a licensed CPA. Must be willing to relocate. Part time only.”
-“Need someone with at least 15 years of Amazon Web Services experience, knows Linux kernel dev, and willing to do in-person sales. At least 50% of time will be sales focused. This is a commission only position.”
-“Looking for a developer that knows Ruby, Java, and Node.JS. Must be willing to work for $30k, full time. Purple-haired female preferred. No benefits.”
Anyone in the tech sector knows these people don’t exist. A UI/UX person in finance? Not gonna happen. A Linux DEV that wants to sell? A great developer working for under $80k? Get real. I have an easier time believing that a company that doesn’t make money is worth a billion dollars. (“We’re close to revenue!” Better be a lot of revenue buddy. Like a billion.)
We make these mental leaps of faith to failure. People rarely have these unicorn skill sets. People who do have unicorn skill sets are your competition. Everyone else is just a horse.
Horses are great. Horses specialize. Some plow. Some race. Some pull carts. Unicorns can plow, race, and pull. Everyone else needs to specialize. Learning to use horses for unicorns in your startup is a great leap. We can find horses today. Unicorns never show.
Unicorn job descriptions come from desperation. In startups, we are desperate to have key job functions handled. In a traditional mindset, we expect to hire to fill these roles. A unicorn is our mental construct to fill in all these roles. The truth is we can split these roles out, and get the work done.
Startups need contractors before hiring for a role. Contractors offer us flexibility in time and payment. Need UI/UX and finance? Get two contractors until you get big enough to need something different. Outgrow a contractor? No problem, contractors are not salary roles. Need to scale quick? Hire several contractors.
Your startup needs to stop focusing on made up solutions that stop progress. Split your hiring needs into tasks. Place the tasks with contractors. Grow your business. Hire people when you are ready to let them specialize.
Eric built his experience working in the tech sector for 20 years. He is CEO of Campus Suite, a content management and communications platform for schools and colleges across the US. Eric is also COO of Soundstr, a Brandery graduate backed by Gracenote, and COO of Craftforce, a skilled trades marketplace. He helps Cincinnati startups as a advisor for Cintrifuse. Eric brings his experiences and methods from running multiple companies to the startup ecosystem. His key skills include team management, platform design and development, process design, and inbound marketing. Connect with Eric on LinkedIn
Feature image credit osseous. Image has been cropped.