Business planning · Hiring

Should I find a Sales Co-Founder? Product works, 1 year till self-service

Frank Cohen CTO and Founder at Appvance

February 16th, 2019

Product takes the expensive people-effort out of building and running ad campaigns. First 3 customers are big well known giant brand names. I serviced them using our product manually - scalable to one person/3 customers per month. Engineering effort is underway to make the product self-service by customers and make the biz scalable to thousands - will take a year. Will achieve reliable cash flow to hire a sales employee this year. Currently able to handle another 2 customers/month. Should I find a co-founder (commission only + stock) to do sales prospecting and close new accounts now?

Sarim M. Khan Seeking tech cofounder

February 17th, 2019

Revenue is the lifeblood of any business, so I would say: yes, you should always be revenue focused and have a strong sales team. As my former boss (CEO; moved up through the sales channel) used to say....there is no P&L without R.

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

February 17th, 2019

No. Founder selling should be your only focus until you cannot handle anymore. If you hire a sales Co-Founder, they will want to build a sales team. If you hire a salesperson, they will not be able to survive on commission only. Unless you are ready support a team, have absolute proof of the model of the purchaser and decider process, have complete understanding what they need and if they will actually use the product, do not spend on a sales team who will have little to do.

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

February 17th, 2019

A commission-only salesperson isn't what a co-founder is.

The owner is usually the primary salesperson until they're unable to meet their obligations because sales is taking too much time. Adding more salespeople does not always increase sales, especially if you don't take the time to supervise and train them. If there is no formalized sales process that has been tested, refined, improved, tested again, and documented so anyone with product knowledge can succeed using it, spend your time developing the sales program, not hiring.

Look at risk from the viewpoint of a salesperson. No one will take a commission-only position if there is too much risk. Without a proven sales process, the risk is too high. And even if there is someone willing to take a commission-only position, it doesn't earn them co-founder status. Plus at commission-only, you may need to pay them 50% of sales just to keep them interested.

Steve Owens Startup Expert

February 17th, 2019

Very unlikely you would get anyone good just on commission.

Even less likely you will get someone good without a very good sales and marketing system.

First you need to design the sales and marketing system.

Then hire the people for the skill sets that match the system you designed.

Hiring people before you have a design is like buying the components for your product before your make the drawings. Very unlikely they will fit together in any meaningful way.

You will likely need more than one person; however, much of the work can be outsourced - so you do not need full time employees.

You have the product designed - so train someone how to do that and then move to sales and marketing and design that part of the business.

Gandalf Farnam Founder & Architect @Treadsoft, Professional Optimizer

February 21st, 2019

Good question, Frank. I'll give you the same answer that someone gave me.

A co-founder has to offer something that a contractor or employee cannot. Investment capital, sweat equity, network connections, etc.

I was ready to give part ownership to a guy who was actually better suited as an employee, simply because he was the first one to join my team. Thankfully, an advisor brought me to my senses.

Don't pay for a co-founder if you're only getting an employee AND an employee is all you need!

All the best,



February 17th, 2019

My concerns would be:

1. That you wouldn’t need a sales director until such time you need someone to manage at least 6+ fulltime salespeople. At that point, it may not serve your needs to hire a ‘co-founder’ verses that of just a director or manager, plus a trainer.

2. The best co-founder/sales person you can afford to hire today (using your stated terms) probably wouldn’t be what you need (talent-wise) or want, when you’re looking to run a dozen or more salespeople. But you’d be stuck with an expensive, early-hire.

3. IF, any sales person that you do find today actually does work well in bringing in weekly sales … the main problem is that you wouldn’t be able to handle the load. You don’t want to have to hire lots of manual temp personnel; or sign-on many new clients while still waiting for your technology to finish/de-bug (as you’ll burn your reputation/leads/contacts).

Sounds as if you should continue making sales yourself … and hire freelancers just to turn out the work. Of course I could be wrong. I wish you continued success, Frank.