Thursday, May 1, 2014

Do a Lot of Antiquing !!!

Garage sales, out of the way antique shops, and second hand stores are all great if you're looking for that hidden gem or unrecognized value from other people's discards.   Recently popularized in many reality TV shows like American Pickers, a lot of money can be made in sifting through another person's old things.

What does American Pickers have to do with running a successful software business?


If you're running a small to medium sized software business, the key to growing your business could be in hiring experienced employees that have been discarded by larger software companies, and in many cases directly from your competition.

Often, there is nothing wrong with these employees.   Large software companies can be brutally inefficient when attempting to force their headcounts to balance with next quarter's projected financial statements.   Sales are down for a given quarter, the big software company needs to shed some employees, and an easy mark is to hatchet without mercy, employees that have come along as part of a acquisition.   When a large software company needs to fill a hole in their product lineup, instead of building the technology in house, they go out a buy a smaller company that has already built it.   Leveraging their own much larger sales staff and partner ecosystem, the acquiring company is poised to increase sales rapidly.  The original sales, marketing and support staff from the company they just acquired becomes redundant.  The redundant are quickly discarded.

Hate to say it, but a recent article, "The Brutal Ageism of Tech Years of experience, plenty of talent, completely obsolete" (
 )   couldn't have been more accurate.  

Built up on their historic beginnings as offshoots of Universities, most large software firms have tunnel vision when it comes to software development talent.   The best, the brightest and the most recently graduated are given preference when it comes to hiring for new positions.   Large software companies are aware of how little is invested in upgrading of the programming skills of their current staff, so they incorrectly conclude that the best way to move forward is to bring in new blood, with new ideas, new approaches and new skill sets.  Or so large companies think.   Millions of dollars each year are spent recruiting the best and brightest, while at the same time thousands and thousands of resumes from talented older employees are quickly tossed aside as soon as they can be be properly disqualified.

This tunnel-visioned youth movement within large software companies is not restricted to the programming field.   Some of the largest software companies have let this "youth at all costs" movement permeate into their sales structures as well.   So much so, that many large firms find themselves releasing experienced sales representatives acquired through acquisitions, while they are simultaneously indoctrinating fresh new sales recruits in their own, recently institutionalized, sales academies.

I wonder how shareholders would feel if they knew about all the money that is being wasted in these areas.   To make matters worst, the expense of releasing more experienced employees with several years experience is high, while the retention rate of the new recruit that has less experience, but more training, is comparatively lower.  Totally baffling is the logic used to determine that the payback of investing in good training is wasted on loyal long term employees of the firm.  Yet, it makes perfect sense to invest in new recruits, who once trained, can't wait to find out how much their new titles and new knowledge are really worth in the open marketplace.

Surely someone in Human Resources Management at large software companies understands the fact that overall morale at a workplace that discards loyalty with such cavalier fervor (oxymoron intended) will soon have no loyalty to discard.  Some good middle-aged employees may start their own job hunt once they witness how their older colleagues get treated.  Human nature will compel them to ask themselves, "How long will it be before that's me being shown the door?"

As a smaller software company you cannot afford to make the same hiring, firing, or releasing mistakes that your larger competitors make.   But why not profit from their mistakes?  You can in fact narrow the revenue gap between you and your larger competitor, very quickly, by hiring their discarded talent and turning it back loose on them.

Older talent have the connections, the knowledge and most importantly, the actual hands on industry experience that can't be found in a textbook or magically created in a corporate academy.   They are ready to start immediately and have the experience to get up and running right away.  Take a jump into that talent pool, and just watch those "old" hires float you safely to the shore of software business success.


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