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#HighGrowthMatters spotlight: Head of Talent Beth Scheer’s Inside Tips for Surviving Economic Uncertainty

Jun 1, 2022 11:22:46 AM | By

This conversation with Beth Scheer, Head of Talent at Homebrew, explores preparing for the anticipated market downturn, and how to hire and not overhire.

 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up at Homebrew.

 

After college, I worked in public affairs and public relations at a couple of big agencies in Washington DC and San Francisco. While I was working at one of the first internet advertising agencies, I realized PR was not my passion. I told the CEO I wanted to see if I could help hire people.

We were about 12 people at the time. He said, “Okay,” handed me a big stack of resumes, and said, “Find three HTML coders.” I said, “I don’t know how to do that.” And he said, “Figure it out.” And that’s how I started recruiting.

From there I worked in-house at some really great companies, like Google and Salesforce, recruiting for all different functions - especially marketing, product, sales, and customer success roles. I'm not a deep tech recruiter, but I did recruit on the engineering side at Google for about three years and recruited tech leadership types at SFDC.

While I was at Salesforce, Satya Patel, a former colleague from Google, reached out. He and Hunter Walk had started a seed-stage fund and were looking for someone to act as “talent partner.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but was curious.

I was planning on staying at Salesforce for at least 10 years, I loved my job there. But the way he explained the position at Homebrew really made me think about my future and growth. He told me, “Look, we don't want you to recruit for our companies. We want you to teach our founders how to fish.” And I think that’s the best way to explain my job. It’s to help our founders figure out how to do this work, not do it for them.

Homebrew has been around for just over nine years and we're into our fourth fund. I’ve been with them for seven years now.

Over the years, have you noticed any shifts in certain roles being easier or more difficult to fill?


I’ll start by saying that it's always going to be hard to do a search if the team is not calibrated. You have to know what you're looking for and why. When a CEO says, “I need a VP of marketing,” but they don't fully understand what a VP of marketing does versus a director of acquisition marketing or retention or SEO, that’s a problem. Not calibrating first is the number one reason why people end up spending a lot of hours that they shouldn't be spending on searches.

When it comes to roles that are challenging to fill, at this point in time, all functions seem to be challenging.

For the past 18 months, the surprisingly challenging roles have been Head of Talent and Head of HR because so many people in these functions left their respective roles during Covid. There was chaos and nobody really understood this whole remote work environment. Plus, once you've worked in one of those roles at an early-stage startup where you have scaled quickly, you're pretty tired.

There are some people who will do it twice. And a lot of our founders say, “I want somebody who's done it before…maybe even 3 times.” Scaling a company from a recruiting standpoint 2-3 times is pretty exhausting. Most talent leaders are done after 1 or 2 times.

What’s a top priority for you and your portfolio companies right now?


At a high level, my top priority is to make sure that our companies have all the tools, resources, and support they need to be Series A ready. How I do that could look like anything from teaching founders how to run a technical interview process to doing leveling and comp exercises. My end goal is to get our companies Series A ready so that an investor will take them seriously.

And again, I'm not on the investment side. I'm on the talent side, but I know what a solid Series A team looks like. I do a lot of level setting, and expectation management, and I will push back when they want to hire somebody that I don't think is right.

I think we’d all love to know - what does a solid Series A team look like?


I actually have a slide on that.

 

 

Seed

Series A

Series B

Product

Founder led

5-7 years experience

10+ years experience

Marketing/Growth

Not a priority

Finding product-market fit is key

Generalist: knows acquisition, SEO, content 

Reduced scope with functional expertise; 8+ years experience

Sales

Founder led

Player/coach; 6-8 years experience

VP; 8+ years experience

HR/Recruiting

Founder led

HR at 30 people; Recruiting; contract agencies and retained for execs

Hire in-house

 

When you're a Seed stage company, we'll look at four functions: product, marketing/growth, sales, and HR/recruiting.

Product should be owned by the founder at the Seed stage. At Series A, you're not hiring a chief product officer. You're going hire somebody with a few years of product experience, like a manager or maybe a Head of Product. Then by Series B, you'll want to get somebody at the Head of or VP level.

Marketing and growth, especially for an enterprise company, is not a top priority. You need to find product-market fit first. But by Series A, get a generalist who knows acquisition marketing, SEO, and content marketing. And by Series B, you want somebody who has a reduced scope with functional expertise in one of those areas.

Sales needs to be founder-led at the seed stage. Then hire somebody who's very much a player/coach by Series A. Once you hit your Series B, look for a VP with 8-12 years of experience.

Recruiting at the Seed stage is generally run by the founder(s). It takes up about 40% of your time. HR can be outsourced at the seed stage. When you get up to 30 people and have a holiday or office party, but you don't have an HR person, you're could be in trouble. At that point, get an HR manager. They can manage recruiting in the meantime and own employee relations, benefits, compliance, etc., but you'll need to hire somebody more senior in-house by Series B.

We've actually seen companies at Series A hire a Head of Talent and a Head of HR - which may seem aggressive. And both of those positions are hard to find. But if you can do that by Series A, you’ll be in much better shape to scale.

What’s a big bet you’re making?


The biggest bet we’re making is that companies are going to have to continue to be flexible with remote work, given what we’ve learned about productivity. Any company that draws a line in the sand and says, “You have to come in x-number of days” is at a huge disadvantage in terms of hiring.

And even though we're starting to see some layoffs right now, it's not going to get much easier to hire. Now you just have more people to sift through. It’s especially tough when you’re an early-stage company with fewer resources, looking for something specific, and trying to build pipeline.

What’s a top challenge you’re noticing across the board?


Hiring. Also, accepting that you may not be able to get somebody that you really want based on level or on comp. If you can get someone for 18 months at a seed or A company, you are in good shape. Essentially it’s that if you can get 18 months out of somebody, that’s a good hire.

We’re hiring for now - not 2 years ahead. Are we thinking ahead? Of course! We always have to think about the roadmap ahead. But the reality is that if you spend 18 months at a startup and are successful, you can help move the needle. If you think about how fast things move, that person can have a tremendous impact on the company.

When it comes to the current state of the market, how are you telling your portfolio to prepare for the anticipated downturn?


First, don’t overhire in general. Be very deliberate about each hire and make sure that everybody is on the same page about what’s required of the role. If your Head of Engineering disagrees with the CTO and the founder about a role, you're going to spend way too much time talking to the wrong people. Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate!

Second, hire for the current role at hand. Don’t hire someone who is too senior and not the right level for an early stage company. Just because they're really experienced doesn’t mean they are right for your company at the current stage. A founder might tell me they’re looking at a chief marketing officer role for a Series A company. And when I start asking questions, it becomes obvious to me that they don’t need a chief marketing officer. Base your hiring on the problem you need to solve right now.

I’ve also been pushing recruiting and HR tech stack (sourcing platforms, performance management tools) early to help the portfolio scale. A sourcing platform vs. a contingency agency can save you money.

By investing in a sourcing platform, you’re building pipeline, not just for current openings but for future roles as well.

How can the High Growth Matters community support you?


I'm always interested in stage-specific trends. I need comp data so I can go back to founders and say confidently, “This is what the role pays.” More data for international hiring scenarios would be helpful.

Any parting advice?


Just make sure that everybody is on the same page before you go to market with any role. Make sure you've leveled the job. The more you calibrate the beginning, the easier the search will be.

 

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Zoë Rose is a Content Marketing Manager at OpenComp and has held roles at Fuel Cycle, CorePower Yoga, and TrueCar. She pens the monthly High Growth Matters Spotlights. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.