I read an article earlier this week about lessons learned between $5MM and $100MM in ARR. To the layperson - this means growing a small company into a larger company, as measured by its yearly revenue.
One of the points in the article (maybe more, I don’t remember) was about hiring, and it referenced the old adage
A players hire other A players. B players hire C players…
While this sounds like one of those BS businessisms that some capitalist dude came up with, I absolutely believe it to be true. The HN comments section had multiple threads with commenters asking the totally reasonable question “Who’s hiring these B players anyway?”. After all, if all you have to do is only hire A players, why would anyone hire a B player in the first place?
I went for a jog yesterday and decided to imagine some of the scenarios that might lead to B player infiltration of a company..
I imagine a common scenario is known in some circles as the Peter Principle. A talented IC (individual contribute, ie not a manager) is promoted into management. The IC work that came naturally to them is no longer their job and they have to learn a new set of skills to be an effective manager.
These skills are, frankly, not their thing and so they don’t pick them up as readily and as hungrily as the more fun thing they used to do. One of those skills is learning how to hire good people. Their responsibilities and workload are growing every week, so eventually they have to hire but due to circumstance they rush through the process and hire a less than great teammate.
The formerly A player has committed a B player mistake. Will they learn from it and grow, or will they just put their head back down and keep moving?
Sometimes B and C players actually do hire A players. B players aren’t dumb, after all, they do want to hire good talent. They just don’t possess the skills or the confidence or the humility to grow their potential, so they set about micromanaging them into C players.
I personally think this one is very common, but I’ve never seen it discussed - the B player founded the company. They were born into a wealthy family, they raised their first round on a mediocre idea off of family connections or their last name. They look the part, they belong to the right social circles and at the end of the day that counts for a lot in this society.
The B player founder is never challenged to do better, indeed they are surrounded by evidence of their skill and business acumen. They hire B player after B player into the senior leadership ranks and because they are already rich, and because they are smart enough to avoid running the company into the ground, the company keeps going.
The company thus has an entire leadership culture of B players and the last thing a B player wants is to let an A player anywhere in the room. Money has its own gravity, and so these companies end up succeeding anyway. It’s depressing if you think about it too much.
So the answer in all 3 scenarios above to the question “who is hiring these B players in the first place” is your leadership.