The CEO's Job: Pick the Starting Lineup

The CEO’s Job: Pick the Starting Lineup

The CEO's Job: Pick the Starting Lineup

We're almost 4 years old here at Flow State Media.  I'd like to think I learned a thing or two during this time -- it would help make the added gray hairs worth it! And one thing I realized is that as CEO, it is your responsibility to pick the right starting lineup for your company.  What do I mean by starting lineup?  I mean the most important positions that are required and necessary for your company to succeed.  What makes this hard is that nobody tells you exactly what positions are important.


The job of an NFL or NBA coach in this respect is fairly easy.  Positions in well-known sports such as football, basketball and soccer have been set for decades.  An NBA team fields 5 players, a center, 2 guards and 2 forwards.  Football and soccer teams must field exactly 11 players a side, with some variation within that 11.

But at a startup, no one tells you what's the right lineup for your company.  You have to figure it out for yourself.  And you HAVE to do it if you want to scale up and succeed. For a free-to-play mobile gaming company, here's what we have right now: 4 engineers, 2 artists, 1 analytical product manager, 1 QA lead, and 1 marketing person (me). But as of the middle of last year, we only had 4 engineers, 1 artist and myself handling marketing.  We were missing key parts of the starting lineup.

We had great analytical product manager coverage in the early days of Flow State, but when our colleague had to move away from the Bay Area, we had a significant gap in our lineup.  For free to play mobile games, you NEED this position. So we went and finally filled that role in November 2015.  And when he came on, we had continued discussion of what else was missing.  We needed more art production, so found that in January.  And we needed to offload more of the QA work that we had been doing ourselves and had farmed out to an (overpriced, imho) QA agency, so we found and hired a QA lead in April. And the result: Word Smart is our best-performing game in the history of Flow State Media, and we have more specialists "doing their thing" and making a positive, meaningful impact.  

We identified the roles, and found great people to do them What other positions are needed?  More User Acquisition support and more help in the Community/Customer Service side would be fantastic, and I'm optimistic we'll find great people for those roles too.  (Agencies are more than willing to help out in the meantime). Of course what makes this so difficult is that employees COST MONEY.

There is art & science involved in all of this -- at what point do you bring on a new employee and take on the extra cost?  What is the estimated ROI on this hire, and how quickly can this ROI be realized?  What type of revenues are coming in to reduce your monthly burn rate and how will a new employee impact things on the revenue and cost sides of the equation?  I can't answer all these questions for you, but if your sense tells you that the ROI is going to sizable and come in quickly, make the hire.  If the impact is real, your investors won't be unhappy with you for increasing the burn rate, they'll think you're smart for identifying a need and filling it. So to sum up, take the time to think about what positions are needed, and do NOT be satisfied with the answer "Oh, I can do that myself for now".  

In order to grow the business, you first need to identify what roles are needed, and then find the best candidate to "own" that position.  Doing everything yourself is not sustainable and limits what the company can do. So for your business, what's your starting lineup?