Staffing for Product Management after M&A (David, Goliath or the David within Goliath)
Size looms large when recruiting Product Management leaders after a big company swallows smaller one. It may start like a David & Goliath scenario, but the entity left standing is Goliath, not David.
For example, at Goliath stage companies like Symantec, cultures have long been established, growth is in plateau mode, and bulk hampers agility. Size, however, affords a fat checkbook for gobbling up David stage innovators in an attempt to ensure future growth (albeit ponderously).
Goliaths have to manage complex product portfolios, and lean toward maintaining predictable earnings. They don’t swing for the fence on every individual hire, or product launch. VPs of Product Management at companies like Symantec spend a tremendous amount their time managing across the organization (a necessary evil which unfortunately can dull their sword), whereas at the “David stage” that VP of PM will be touching the market/customer almost every day.
Goliaths have the lifespan of a bowhead whale, so staffing strategies must address succession planning. Conversely, staffing startups is about hiring to cross the finish line ASAP.
M&A events trigger a “Recruiting for David within Goliath” type of search in the product management (PM) organization, as management struggles to profitably integrate new tech, talent and customers into a Goliath structure.
Here’s the big issue – inevitably the hottest acquired talent bails to light up a new venture (easier getting funded with a track record). By virtue of working as bigger fish in smaller ponds, founders and key early stage execs have more trench warfare P&L experience than their big company peers. When they depart, Goliath is left with valuable new IP, but the guys that rocked it have split, taking that creative, hair-on-fire energy with them.
Goliath then suffers for lack of executive muscle with combined P&L, PM, Startup and Strategy chops (2 parts David, 1 part Goliath) capable of leveraging size, while capitalizing on Rambo-like startup experience. I’ve seen the PM role changing to require more quantifiable P&L experience every year.
Since this is a repeating pattern, why not improve profitability by planning for this inevitable staffing challenge as part of an overall acquisition strategy?!