There’s a saying that a great developer is 10x more productive than a mediocre one.
That’s not true.
You can’t put 100 average designers on a committee and get a fabulous design, right?
A great developer, or a great designer, is better than 10x an average one — they’re better than an infinite number. Because they’ll come up with ideas and implementations that 100 others wouldn’t.
This is approximately true everywhere. A great writer (content marketing, social media) versus 100 average bloggers. A great manager who develops the careers of their folks versus several average ones who are glorified project managers. A great customer support rep thrilling customers and causing love on Twitter versus 100 others “answering tickets” but never invoking an emotional reaction. A product manager driving consistent, brilliant output driven by salability instead of under-the-hood technical gymnastics.
Even in sales, which is tempting for Vulcan engineers to think of as revenue-acquisition-robots with zombie-like drive to make phone calls, in which a slew of barely productive “closers” may not be financially efficient but will still get the job done. If you see it that way, please don’t make yourself responsible for building out the sales group, else your dream might be actualized. A great salesperson is a factory producing cheerleader customers who are actually thrilled and referenceable after the sale, and who excites the entire company around what’s possible around growth, the engine that makes everything else possible, locking arms and bringing along every person at every position, and sharing and promulgating the corporate culture rather than developing a separatist roost of vultures feeding on the entrails of leads bagged by the comparatively friendly and accessible marketing department.
If you think “sales” can’t be that way, that’s because you are the one with incorrect expectations. (At WP Engine, we’re living proof of this.)
In fact, if you think there’s any position at your company where this rule of “better than 10x” doesn’t hold, you’ve never worked with greatness at that position.
Now, if you understand this universal, timeless, human rule, you then realize you cannot afford to hire anyone less.
If you’re competing against a company with the intent, the pocketbook, and the storyline needed to hire those people, but you don’t, you’ll need to sit down and figure out how your business will thrive anyway. Which might be possible, of course, but it’s a special sort of optimization.
And not one I’d be excited about executing. I’d rather work with the best, do amazing things together, and have a chance to learn new things every day from those amazing people.
Life’s too short, and high tech moves too fast, to mess about with mediocrity.