A seductive trap facing the young startup business is the desire for a bloated business flush with fancy titles contributing to the appearance of a large business but in reality do nothing. Fancy titles and inflated positions do not legitimize your business. Bloat is deceiving and dangerous.
You may think the world is eyeballing your staff roster to see how many important figures are on the payroll but in actuality nobody is. I liken it to a teenager who upon getting their first pimple assume everyone is recoiling from it in horror and disgust. In reality however, no one really notices or cares. More likely they’re hoping you‘re not noticing their blemishes in return.
But who wouldn’t want to be a VP of something right? An impressive title appeals to the ego and entices someone towards a position of power instead of developing a great business. Without the skills, integrity or experience to back your title up, you’re just a figurehead. No power, no autonomy, no characteristics that will draw people and their business to you. You will inevitably make expectations your business cannot deliver on. Unless the compensation is outrageous, these people will find new and better opportunities with even bigger titles.
I recently saw this painful process play out in a young real estate company who started adding people with impressive titles and positions left and right. Knowing the reality of the business’s size and sales, these positions and titles made no sense to me whatsoever. What is a VP of strategic development going to do when your business had only 3 people and was only 2 years old?
This business went on to add 5 executive level positions and 6 associates to the small team and even opened another office. The whole “build it and they will come” mentality to management was in full effect like a slow motion car accident.
Within 6 months, the business had gone from 2 offices and 15 people back to 2 people and a few independent sales agents. The whole office was empty desks, barren cubicles, bone dry water coolers. All the high powered positions, people and bios were gone. The smell of a dead business hung heavy in the air.
What’s worse than having a business of people with fancy titles who do nothing? Trying to explain to your customers why those people are no longer with your business 6 months later. Your bloated business, once intended to impress individuals has turned into a keen source of embarrassment like a drunk uncle or a beat up car.
In my opinion, young businesses simply feel insecure being small and make up for it by creating partners and vice presidents to head made up divisions. Yes, people are your greatest asset, but they can also be your greatest liability at the wrong time.
It’s okay to take things slow. Use your small size as a selling point for how much more efficient you are than huge multinational corporations. If people notice you have a smaller team, talk about your team’s proficiency, talent and versatility which gives you the big output to compete with the big boys. People will like that more and your ambition to be big won’t get in the way of your success.
In the end, efficiently managing the size of your business by having the right people who contribute to your product or service is really the only thing that matters.