This is part of an ongoing startup advice series where I answer (anonymized!) questions from readers, like a written version of Smart Bear Live. To get your question answered, email me at
asmartbear -at- shortmail -dot- com.
Ambitious Sailor writes:
How can a former navy officer with twelve solid years of overseas defense contracting experience convince a tech startup to hire him as their business guy?
I’m currently talking to [CEO] at [hot new tech company] and I have an interview coming up.
I have a love of entrepreneurship and I figured I may be able to learn a few things from smarter people than myself.
Replace your question with “why” instead of “how:”
Why should a former navy officer with overseas defense contracting experience be “the business guy” at a startup? Especially a hot tech startup?
My guess is, if you’re honest, the fact is that there is no particular reason you should be the CEO of that company. Which is why you’re asking me how to convince them otherwise.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t be! There or somewhere. The question is not “how to convince,” the challenge is this:
Define the startup in which you would be the perfect person to be CEO or Biz Dev. Not just “OK,” not just “no reason why you couldn’t,” but perfect. No one one Earth better. Construct one startup like that — an imaginary startup.
Who would the founders be? (Probably technical with no sales or business experience, so they need someone for that role.)
What industry would it be? (Probably defense, a place where you have to “know someone” and “know how the game is played” to participate at all, where the founders aren’t those people, so they’re dead unless someone like you runs sales.)
What type of product would it be? Technical? Administrative? Mission-critical? Think hard — a startup doing something mission critical is a hard sell. What kind of product could you sell with your eyes closed
Where is the startup? (e.g. maybe it’s not near Washington, but washington is where everything goes down and you don’t mind being there, so they need you there.)
Keep going, what else? You don’t mind travel; what kind of biz dev or sales requires overseas travel that you can do cold but the founders would be bewildered?
Of course I’m ignorant of this whole industry so it’s quite likely I’m not even in the right ballpark with any of those ideas. But the mindset is right.
Now, does the startup you find have to match exactly on every point? No. But now you know what you’re looking for.
And, once you find it, you’ll get the job. If not, they’re the crazy ones.
Add your advice to the discussion section!