Transparency in the recruiting process ensures that goals and objectives are aligned. Particularly for revenue leadership, it is critical that executives have the opportunity to conduct proper due diligence on a potential employer.
Of course, this information should be shared at the appropriate stage in the interview process and potentially under the auspices of an NDA. Appropriate due diligence can be bucketed into three categories beyond simple market based due diligence related to market size and opportunity. These include Operating Performance, Cultural, and Finance and Capitalization due diligence.
Any information about financial targets over preceding 12-24 months and attainment thereto.
- Sales team performance including quota amount, quota attainment rates.
- Marketing and demand generation performance including demand generation performance (eg leads, MQLs, etc), size and state of pipeline over time.
- Previous decks presented to Board of Directors cap table information redacted.
- Reference calls with both current and churned customers.
Information about the culture of the company, how people feel about working there, and the behavior of the top executives.
- References on all key executives including early career references on Founders from personal relationships and co-workers
- Glassdoor reviews
- Employee hiring and churn data
- Access to internal culture survey results and feedback
FINANCE AND CAPITALIZATION
Perhaps most importantly, a clear understanding of how the business has capitalized itself, what claims outside investors have on the business, and how the financing of growth has impacted overall ownership.
Specific items to inquire about include:
- Total shares outstanding to compare against price per share and grant
- General composition of cap table including accurate numbers on total capital raised as well as the existence and nature of any type of liquidation preferences or preferred shareholders
- An understanding if any of the Founders or early employees have or intend to sell secondary shares or take money off the table in the near term
Commercial leaders should be compensated at market rates. Importantly, sales leaders should be more aligned with the rest of the executive team. Consequently, instead of 50% base 50% commission, we believe in a split where the commercial leader can more adequately live their lives from their base compensation. Correspondingly, commercial compensation should be ⅔ base and 1/3 commission (uncapped).
Because executives need to be given time to achieve their goals, new executives should receive their first quarter after start date guaranteed.
The average tenure of a commercial executive has declined 25% over the last 8 years and continues to decline, now standing at just 17 months. There are a variety of reasons for this but the reality is that under any circumstance commercial leaders need more stability to properly deliver value to an organization.
The effect of such volatility on an executive career is profound. Particularly because each person’s career is now so public and transparent, high turnover creates both personal and professional costs. In certain cases, a commercial executive may be relocating their family and uprooting their spouse and children. But in every case, an executive is making a huge bet on a team and a product with their most valuable asset, their time and their life.
To that end, commercial executive compensation packages must include a significant (non-cause based) severance component. For companies in growth phase or at scale (Series B or later), that amount should equal 12 months of the executive’s base pay. For earlier stage companies that amount should be 6 months.
The current structure of equity compensation in high-growth companies is in most cases deeply flawed if not completely broken. Employees are granted options to purchase common shares in high growth companies. Yes, in some cases everything works as intended. The executive works 4 years, the options vest, and the liquidity event occurs. Wealth is generated.
But in many more cases, the executive falls victim to issues of declining tenure despite having helped drive the business to important financial milestones and increasing the enterprise value of the firm. In other cases, the company achieves an outcome, but the common shares are buried beneath so many preferences from late stage investors, that the equity is effectively worthless. In still other cases, a large financing round is raised but the founder is the only employee able to realize liquidity by selling shares on a secondary market, often to new investors, and often unbeknownst to the rest of the executive team.
As a consequence of all these very common scenarios, we believe companies and executives must jointly develop new or different types of options to help all employees, but particularly executives, achieve liquidity at different points in the evolution of a company’s growth.
A right to consult and advise should be included in every executive employment agreement, ensuring that the executive has some ability to both retain ownership of their functional expertise and the ability to monetize that expertise to offset inherent professional risk.