People First

Dotcom Employees vs. Traditional

One mistake not to make is thinking that hiring for your dotcom is just like hiring for a traditional company. No way. As a result of the shakeout that occurred in the dotcom world earlier this year-when many well-funded dotcoms went under-there is a trend now toward hiring sales employees and jack-of-all-trade types vs. solely research-and-development employees.

"We are entering into a new phase of how dotcoms are evaluated," says Challenger. "They're being evaluated much more strictly on their ability to post earnings. As a result, they're focusing less on research and development and more on acquiring customers. They're hiring more salespeople who can go out and sell products or services, or more employees who can do many different tasks."

Even if you haven't experienced a shakeout, you should still hire multitalented employees. "As a dotcom company, the challenge is to-at least initially-do with less, so having good people with a lot of different skills is what's necessary to really thrive and move to the next level," says Michelle Burke, CEO of Executive Counterparts, a San Francisco consulting and training company.

You'll also probably have to hire more technical employees than you would at a traditional company, and when it comes to hiring them, you have to explain your business model in a way that "savvy technology folks agree is a sustainable business model," says Villella. "A year ago, dotcoms-no matter what they were-appeared interesting. Now, people are looking at companies and wondering if they're going to be around for a while."

Challenger is in agreement. "If you find people coming out of school with state-of-the-art experience, you have to get them," he says, "Create an environment where they want to come to work for you." Also, unlike traditional companies, it's important to hire emplovees who mav not be as concerned about big paychecks as a chance to be part-owners of a successful dotcom company in the future through stock options.

This means you'll probably hire a group of energetic individualists who, in many cases, will be young. For example, eBags.com's employees have a median age of 27. At a dotcom company, you'll also generally give employees significantly more responsibility than you would at a traditional company-which means snagging responsible individuals who are excited at the prospect of owning a project.

"I don't have the time to micromanage here," says Cobb. "Therefore, I have to trust my employees to get a project that fits in with the company's goals and objectives up and running pretty much on their own."

Another dotcom difference: Unlike traditional corporations (Cobb's last job was as director of marketing for Samsonite), where the people hired are all alike, dotcoms like eBags.com seek out variance. "Since we're doing something that really has never been done before, we look for people who see the world a little bit differently," Cobb says. That means he's not concerned about appearance when hiring: "We tell people they can wear whatever they want, and if they want to wear shorts or an earring, that's OK."

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 mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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