Senior Managers: Build or Buy?

At PFL, we focus hard on developing leaders from within. A number of our senior people were originally hired into entry-level positions, and worked their way into positions with progressively greater responsibility.

Nonetheless, I think a company needs to bring in some amount of outside talent in order to get fresh approaches and diverse experiences. Also, in a high-growth environment you sometimes don’t have the time to grow your own – you need certain skills, and you need them yesterday.

For a high-growth company, what is the right ratio of grown-from-within to “hired gun” managers? How do you decide which positions are served best by which strategy? I posed this question to a panel of experienced business leaders recently. Venture capitalist Paul Matteucci said he likes to see 80% home-grown and 20% hired, and the others mostly concurred. They also pointed out that hiring high-level talent is expensive, and there are significant integration risks. With home-grown talent, you generally have a very good idea of what you are working with, in terms of both skills and values.

We have only about a 50% success rate hiring in senior managers. Anyone care to share your experiences?


Andrew Field is President of, known by its thousands of happy customers as "America‘s Print Shop." He works and lives along the Yellowstone River in southwest Montana.

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