The #3 Reason it's Hard to Hire DTC Product Managers

Today we explore the third reason it's hard to hire product talent for a DTC brand. The third reason is a touchy reason; it revolves around the Founder. Working with Founders can sometimes have a darker side, akin to the tales of legends and the thrilling episodes of popular streaming series.

But let us begin by saying we love working with Founders. First-time Founders, multi-exit Founders, we love them all! Our experience working with all different types of Founders has given us unique insights into how they make critical hiring decisions, for better or worse. Many Founders are great at team building, while others can flounder under pressure.

These are the five reasons the Founder can be the roadblock to hiring the right talent for a DTC startup.

1. Founder Insecurity

This insecurity prevents them from hiring experienced talent as they perceive it as a threat. Instead of focusing on reasons to hire, they actively look for reasons not to hire. This can lead to a lack of experienced talent on the team, which can hinder the growth and success of the company.

2. Founder Anxiety

Unable to make decisions, Founders often fall into analysis paralysis. They may also resist outside opinions and disregard expert advice, thinking they know best. Additionally, interview fatigue may cloud their judgment, resulting in poor hiring choices.

3. Founder-itis

Founders tend to be overly critical of potential hires, believing no one is good enough for their company. This lack of humility, inappropriate for their stage and level of experience, causes them to miss out on opportunities to recruit top talent. After all, nobody wants to work with a know-it-all.

4. Founder's Fantasy

Founders may have an unrealistic expectation of finding a unicorn hire who perfectly fits their vision of a dream candidate. They might be unwilling to wake up from this idealized vision and hire someone capable of driving the company's growth. This prolonged waiting period frequently results in missed market opportunities and hinders the progress of product development.

5. Culture-Obsessed Founder

Founders who prioritize culture over skills and abilities may end up with a team lacking diversity and unknowingly create a homogeneous work environment. They might hire individuals who are similar to them, impeding their ability to adapt to change and resulting in missed opportunities for growth.

It's important to point out that plenty of Founders make great decisions and build teams that go on to build great companies. We've worked with plenty of those leaders.

If a Founder, Board Member or VC can resonate with one of these five situations, here are some ideas on how to overcome this touchy subject and get to a great hire:

Engage Leadership 

Not all hiring processes need to be led by the Founder. If delegation can be done, do it! Bring in the ELT as a hiring committee or lean on people with extensive experience to help guide decision-making.

Engage a Trusted Advisor

If you think about the Venture Capital community and their relationships with their Founders, the next closest trusted advisors for hiring are professional Recruiters—those who provide specialized search services that build DTC companies. 

Founders owe it to themselves and their brands to be educated on hiring best practices. Those willing to listen to this radical candor and recognize their need for assistance in the hiring process will be the ones who solve their hiring challenges and hire the right candidate that scales the brand successfully.

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