Villella says that the most successful dotcoms have specific growth strategies. "These companies don't just say, 'We need 600 people, let's go get them,' " he says. "Instead, they plan out their human capital, but also understand that that plan is going to shift and that they have to be flexible."
In general, Villella says the most successful dotcoms hire in three stages: In the first stage, shortly after launch, the founders hire key executives and key technology and finance officers. In the second stage, two to four months later, they hire midlevel executives, technology staff, and sales and marketing employees. Then, in the third stage (usually around the time of a company's one-year anniversary), they flesh out the teams in each department.
But entrepreneurs should also take a measured approach to growth as they fill out their teams. EBags.com is a good example-this online retailer of bags and accessories, based in Denver, uses a particular formula. Peter Cobb, 43, co-founder of the 90-person company, says that eBags.com bases hiring decisions mainly on sales. "When we hit [our] revenue objectives, then and only then do we hire more employees," he says. It seems to work for him; however, experts insist there's no hard and fast rule about how many employees are needed for smooth operations. Most successful dotcoms do, however, have this in common: They have excellent business plans, and within those plans they map out their rate of growth, or what they expect to net, and how many people they need to support that growth and potential profitability.
As for the types of employees to hire, there's no magic formula. It is possible, though, to study-and even contact-the companies you admire and determine their attributes for success. Or align yourself with a mentor or expert in the industry who can provide advice. Or follow eBags.corn's example: A typical dotcom start-up, the staff is made up of about 20 technical employees, including application developers, technical infrastructure staff. Web designers and management; 15 customer-care employees; and various sales, marketing, merchandising and management employees.
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at email@example.com.