Who: Mike Maples Jr., 32, cofounder and VP of marketing, Motive Communications Inc., Austin, Texas
Mistake: "Waiting too long to hire the 'right' people."
Payoff: "Hiring is as important as profit and loss."
"Like many startups, We thought that our first 20 hires would define our culture. But we got so picky that we often waited months to hire the 'right' person. Eventually, our really high standards and slow hiring practices got us into trouble. The engineering-group manager told the CEO that he couldn't find people to develop a critical feature in our software. As a result, our self-service feature wasn't available until release 2.0, which meant that we lost our competitive advantage."
"So we began carefully tracking our hiring progress. We coined a term, 'perfect hiring,' which means hiring 'A players' on time. Then we held a hiring contest in which each team (engineering, marketing, etc.) would lose a point for every week a position remained open past the target hiring date. Now we treat our hiring forecast as seriously as our revenue forecast, and there's hell to pay for missing either one."
"Sure, quality talent matters, but leaving a position open for too long while waiting for 'quality' is a mistake. Don't compromise on quality, but don't delay hiring either. You need to be fully staffed to attack a market."