300k/monthly budget what would you do?

Given $300,000/month to spend on salaries what positions would you hire and what strategy would you pursue?  Keep in mind costs for employees in canada are a fraction of silicon valley.

Plentyoffish Generates 1.1 billion pageviews a month on 45 million visitors.    Closest competitor I can find is okcupid with  18 employees with around 60-90M pageviews a month.    I am starting to see why other dating sites with around 500M pageviews/month have at least 100 employees.

These are OKCUPID’s EMPLOYEES
1.  Creative Director
2.  CEO
3.  Director
4.  Editorial Director
5.  CTO
6.  Senior Web Designer
7.  Software Engineer
8.  Software engineer
9.  Software engineer
10. Software Engineer
11. Software Engineer
12. Sys Admin
13. Director of Sales
14. Web Designer
15.  Software engineer
16.  Software engineer
17. Software Engineer
18. Software Engineer

54 Responses to “300k/monthly budget what would you do?”

  1. Ted Says:

    If you want to keep your company barebones (which is the best way, and of course you do) – get an awesome programmer/designer (helping with code projects, and filling a desperate need – these people are impossible to find) and an ad sales guy, maybe some old iVillage exec or AOL person, someone with the connections and the gray hair. Sales are a whole ‘nother world, and what you want is someone who will fly around, buy steaks, and can market your site so instead of Adsense you’re slapping up a jillion $ worth of Sprite ads at $5 CPMs.

  2. Alexander Says:

    what, no marketing?

  3. Richard Says:

    Here are some things I would consider in your position.

    1) What do you want to do? Do you want to be CEO or CTO? If you want to be CTO you need to find someone who can help you run the company / sell.
    2) Get someone cheap to start fielding customer service calls and some of the mundane admin to free up more of your time to plan and get hiring. I think you need to do this ASAP.
    3) Figure out where your technical gaps regarding web design / programming and find someone to fill them.
    4) Find the right professional help i.e. accountant and lawyer.

  4. Guk Says:

    I think in your situation I would hire people in following fields:

    – Creative Director (maybe you can do this).
    – Senior Web Designer (obligatory lol)🙂.
    – 2 Web Designers.
    – 3 Software Engineers.

  5. Gordon Says:

    With 1.1B page views you have inventory going to waste. I would hire sales, sales, sales. Sales cures all.

  6. n Says:

    Keeping with your Me, Myself & I theme, you could get personal assistants. One technical type and one non-technical that can do the easily automate-able tasks in your life to make you more effective.

  7. kelvin newman Says:

    It depends really where you are spending time where ultimately you are over qualified to carry out the work.

    I would have thought admin, finance & technical grunt work might be filling a lot of your time. And don’t rule out getting more junior people, chances are they’ll be more hungry.

  8. Pierre B. Says:

    You are lacking sales muscle. With the amount of page views you would probably do well to focus on monetizing them in several ways. You have the base to try several non traditional things as well.

    Trade off a few of the programmers for sales guys. You are already a CEO that’s strong on IT so you can get away with replacing a few of those programmers.

    You have sales guys that are strong in PPC placement, there are guys that are strong in getting national video ad buys for pre and post roll initiatives, there are guys that can pull in banner cpm sponsor buys by the boatload. All of those are separately important for your site and you would do well to have a sales team that reflects their importance.

    If you need I have a few guys that are working inside the major media companies in NY, who already have the big advertiser relationships, which might be willing to help you get a jump start. You have my contact info.

  9. JayW Says:

    Gorden above has got it. .

    Hire sales, sales, sales and more sales staff. Use contractors for the UI / technical stuff.

  10. quadszilla Says:

    Dude – are you nuts? Sell the company for $200 million and go do something else!

  11. Tomás Says:

    Hm, dude, sales and support just this!!!

    Everything else is useless for you that get alone into that point…

  12. Tomás Says:

    And, course, someone to that care of your finances

  13. Mark Hankins Says:

    Everybody who places ads on your site right now has an interest in maximizing that mutually profitable relationship. MSN, Google and Yahoo! should be willing to sit down and talk to you about taking you off “autopiloted” systems with standard “rate card” deals and working out something customized to maximize profits for both parties.

    If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some startup, somewhere that is leveraging computing power to aggregate purchasers and ad outlets in a smarter way than the big three. And if they don’t exist now, perhaps they soon will.

    But if neither of those pan out, my suggestion would be to get the VC guys inovlved and sell most of the company for a boatload of cash and then move on to “The New New Thing”.

  14. maurizio Says:

    You need two guys. A Software Engineer (maybe me🙂 ) and a CEO. Then the CEO will probably find out what else you need.

    Now how do you find a CEO?

  15. pete Says:

    In the big cities in the US, you expect the annual cost of an employee to be ~100K. This allows for pay differentials, lost productivity and additional benefits other than pay.

    It really depends where you want to go. Do you just want programmers or do you also want programmers that like looking at the big picture and are able to provide input regarding the direction of your company?

    Personally i would recommend sticking employing people with a strong technical background, even if you hire someone for strategy, manage finances or advertising.

    Think about offering equity via a vesting schedule. Because of the popularity and profitability of POF, you can get away with giving away less equity/rights.

  16. Parry Says:

    First of all, respect for PoF – here in London it is quite the thing (despite Match’s recent branding campaign which involved much outdoor all over public transit and even some primetime TV spots!!!)

    Anyways. I’ve always thought that traditional heirarchies don’t fit non-traditional companies. There are also some roles that haven’t been mentioned which are quite important. Having worked for numerous small but growing firms, this is a model I’ve seen work time and time again:

    Section 1 – Sales
    1. Sales director (inc. key account management)
    2. Sales exec #1 (inbound sales)
    3. Sales exec #2 (outbound sales)
    4. Sales support (for execution, paperwork & lead gen)

    Section 2 – Marketing
    5. Marketing manager/strategist
    6. Customer insight manager (CRM type stuff)
    7. Marketing co-ordinator (operational marketing tasks)

    Section 3 – Admimistrative
    8. Accounts/bookkeeping
    9. Office manager
    10. Receptionist

    Secton 4 – Development
    11. Head of R&D
    12. Software engineer #1
    13. Software engineer #2
    14. Web content manager/editor

    Section 5 – Misc
    15. Customer service manager
    16. Customer service exec (maybe even outsource this to a call center for 24hr service, considering your global userbase)

    Section 6 – CEO
    17. CEO (presumably you!)
    18. PA to the CEO

    You may like to consider hiring co-ops thru SFU or UBC (esp for the “lower” roles where some level of transiency is acceptable). I graduated from SFU and know the co-op ppl there, ping me a msg if you want a connection.

    Anyways, my 2 cents. Good luck and keep us posted on the blog dude!

  17. Mayo Says:

    Start with the small core team and later develop a full blown co. like in Parry blueprint.

    the get altitude program is mostly for product sales website but i think you could learn how to manage big team of people without even having a big office, Eben has cca. 80 people under him so.. i think its a good investment to get mentoring form him, again website is http://www.getaltitude.com, i will surely attend his course that is for now to me really expensive but for you i really see it as a good investment

    Good luck!

  18. Massimo Moruzzi Says:

    Markus, imho you need to redo the look of the site – in case you’re interested, I know a person and I might be able to put you in touch with him, but he’s in Europe.

    Also, I would improve the usability of the site and work a lot on the quality of how photos are rendered. Next up, translate it all in 4-5 languages and you’re done🙂

  19. chika Says:

    Markus

    Don’t mess around with the brand, PoF so keep the site design as it is. That is why it is famous around the world. If you make the site look too corporate people will leave

    You need a very aggressive sales team ( you should be making more money than $300k per month), customer service ( start polling your users and find out what else they’d like you to add), a couple of good techies and a CEO.

    You are the face of the brand. Keep your face on CNN whatever. People love that entire David against Goliath angle. This blog has done more for your website that any amount of SEO, SEM can ever do so don’t mess around with that formula.

    Good luck and keep posting!

  20. Andy Arnott Says:

    Markus,

    Maybe it’s just my way of thinking, but if you have more then 5 total employees your wasting time and money.

    You – CEO
    Employees:
    1. Marketing / Sales / Evangelist
    2. Finance / Business Manager
    3. Lead Developer
    4. Developer
    5. Designer

    The rest you could easily cover with contract and/or freelance workers. Any more then this you could get buried in costs. The more hands in the project the more convoluted it gets…

    Take a look at OkCupid’s recent numbers, the money and employees they have thrown at the site has actually caused a DECLINE in traffic.

  21. Martin Says:

    I wouldnt hire any of them, if you are thinking of spending $300k a month on other people, things must be bad

  22. Martin Says:

    BTW Markus doesnt want to redo the look of his site. If it looked good people wouldn’t click on the Google Ads to go to a nice looking site. Its just a portal that sucks people in and the distributes them to nice looking dating sites via Adsense

  23. Jonathan Washburn Says:

    I would load the staff very heavy with Community Development / Support people. Grow the rest of the staff very slowly, starting with a good COO. Plentyoffish is kinda ugly, so maybe an awesome graphic/web designer designer. Also consider adding the 2007 equivalent of a Community Evangelist, not sure what the name of the hip title for that position is right now. “blogger”?

  24. doolally Says:

    Spend a few bucks on ironclad NDAs and Non Competes If your coding isn’t as easy and simple as you make it sound in your interviews. You don’t want people running to the competition with the knowledge of how your site runs.

    Forget the budget hire what you need, it may be best to start with a couple of employees and grow from there I should imagine there will be a period of adjustment for you. At the moment POF is your baby will you be able to sit back and allow other developers babysit without being the anxious parent?

  25. Jeff Molander Says:

    Pageviews, as a business model, is fading — moving out of fashion and will be further relegated by the economics of digital media. Today, dumb money chases pageviews. Why not take advantage? That stated, having a sales force in place for the exit is likely going to be critical… but you must consider the trade-offs. MSNBC just decided to bring it in house but is it right for Plentyofish based on cost involved?

    Take a cue from Google (among many other trends) and move out. Google isn’t putting any real stock into pageviews (the DoubleClick acquisition isn’t about acquiring pageview-based publishers in the long run). They’re moving into performance-based media (CPC, CPA/PPA). Hell, even that old fart Nielsen is signaling a move away from pageviews as the key digital media monetization model!

  26. jeremy Says:

    How ’bout a cartoonist! They’re cheap, and a really great status symbol.

    “Hey Markus, who’s the guy in the corner eating a steak with his hands?”

    “Oh, that’s just our cartoonist. He doesn’t really do anything, we just keep him around because we feel sorry for him. That’s how successful we are.”

    “Wow, where can I get one?”

  27. Ryan Says:

    If you insist on going forward with building out an organization, take it very slow. Hire one developer first and see how you like working with people. You’ve been doing this by yourself for quite a while, and you might be surprised how much you dislike giving up control (someone else touching your code, etc). This test will show whether you are cut out for it. I still say you are better off selling the whole thing for at least $100M+.

  28. JT Says:

    I agree with everyone here who says: “Get an aggressive sales team.” Now!

    They increase the bottom line revenue per month, and then you can expand as you need.

    With your list… I just can’t see you needing all those people considering you do it all yourself right now.

    I’d probably get 3 – 5 technical people, that would work in shifts to cover the site technically 24/7. How technical they need to be is up to you.

    The rest would be sales, sales, sales.

    Marketing? You only need a marketing department if you intend to spend money drawing in more people. I don’t see the need for it: Can anyone else tell me what the marketing dept. would do for POF?

    Public Relations: My guess is with all the free PR you’ve been getting, you can see how much more effective PR is than marketing for your site. So you may want to consider someone full-time for that position… however… hiring a firm might be a better deal, more experience and more minds than one generating ideas for you.

    CEO, I’d hire that out so you can focus on being who you want to be. Also makes the company easier to sell. Think Craigslist. Craig is the spam fighter, etc. not the guy having to sign paycheques every week and such.

  29. Zoltan Says:

    Don’t think of hiring… think about selling. Then do something different. Just my 2 cents…

  30. Mike Says:

    Can’t see why you’d need all that corporate departmental stuff.

    Have you spoken with Carlos the traffic guy? Or someone like him?

    http://traffictactics.com

    Someone who buys ads in a big (and non corporate) way. They may have ideas.

    I wouldn’t want employees except as a last resort.

  31. Bisi Says:

    If I were you { I am not} I would just create my own ad system so that the millions of people that come to the site can advertise on any pages they want . I would make it such that people can advertise by zip code and city …

  32. TechDumpster (living in First Life) Says:

    Sell your company while the valuations on pageviews are hot.

  33. Ryan T Mulligan Says:

    Mr Frind:

    Do not get any employees! Instead use 300k/month to commission more automation for your business. Make others build automation tools that let you run your business yourself. You are the only one who truly will love it and treat it right, others will just be in it for the money.

    -Ryan Mulligan

  34. DG Says:

    Typical staff ratios for successful tech companies are:

    50% sales + support
    25% marketing
    20% engineering
    5% administration

    Only sales people actually bring in money. Everyone else is an expense.

  35. PK Says:

    Markus,

    Many have great suggestions here, this is just another (albeit excuse me if half of this exists in other places since I am not a user but more a fan of the technology and its possibilities when linked with people)…if the purpose is to build upon your platform and to ensure it keeps users interested as well as useful…I would suggest…

    Hire 2 -3 social navigators – people who are the most adept in using plentyoffish.com in all metrics you are tracking. Many users would probably use the service a ton more, but are dying to learn effective ways to do it…let the social navigators or whatever you want to call them alleviate this pain/satisfy this need. You, Markus, – create some tools/functionality to allow these navigators to provide user support and solicit ideas/requests/issues/feedback to:

    1. Innovate – big word, many tasks, but at the end of the day you got a wealth of data and a wealth of interconnected networks – how to make super glue as well as the aroma of the allure for newbies to join and use only adds to the love tub. I’m sure you already know, but your users are probably dying to tell you all kinds of stuff they want and would love to use.

    2. Create “highlight” days to generate additional traffic by doing contests regarding most “hits”/”views” or messages/whatever in an opt-in contest. For example, you have a New Year’s Day Dress Me Up where people get to submit, to the opt-in contestants, in blind or identified registry, what they should wear – you may have a few items (lingerie of many kinds, bubbles, leather, spandex, who knows and you decide, but you get the picture) they can select from. Then by grouping of these items you showcase the winners and regions where the users came from (Canada, Brazil, UK, etc.) and then you can slice/dice this to show all kinds of other stuff. The purpose is to engage and attract and showcase certain users that may be considered the most attractive/whatever. You may also want to kick off other functions like “represent your country” contests, etc. The key is to keep them coming back, expose them to others that their normal search techniques would not have (since you are not really allowing boolean – maybe you are – search) and hence open up more opportunities/possibilities.

    3. Possibly allow for treasure hunts to be user/group/team generated where these users/teams/etc. could do (online only – not off-line to reduce any legal issues/risk) a themed treasure hunt. It could work like this – social navigators post treasure hunt details outlining rules and gifts (using some of your funds or even just unique techno gifts/unique “stars” on profile/etc.) and that they have scattered various clues on certain (that opt-in to participate) user profiles. The fun is in finding this via various clues that are possibly embedded in the user profile/about me/interests/etc. and having to even open up multiple sessions to read the next clue that is joined from multiple profiles, etc. (be creative). The treasure hunt maybe even a contest to date someone (opt-in once again), but the general concept is to engross the user by giving them a process on which they learn how to better use your site, explore, create an association with and possibly to encounter possible significant others along the way. Once again – sticky as it has been all along. Groups could form to do this. Many possibilities to keep the traffic humming and create new interest, bonds, friends, etc.

    In the interest of not taking additional space, I will leave you with this, which you already know…users, at the end of the day, are your best sources of innovation…innovation that will be used today…not 3 years from now.

    Best,

    PK

  36. trey Says:

    Screw all that. Talk to Match.com, VC firms, business brokers, etc, etc SELL OUT.

    Then invest that capital in new ventures that you come up with.

    There are not many chances in life to sell something for multiple hundreds of millions.. not many at ALL.

    And it won’t necessarily always be there. This bubble WILL eventually pop.

  37. Start Me Up Says:

    Its a tough question. You first need to analyze what you have a and what you need .

    Once you have identified the list of these two things , you can start planning as to how much to spend on what .

  38. Gordon Weakliem Says:

    +1 to what Start Me Up said. Honestly, who cares what other sites are doing, regardless of relative pageviews. What are YOUR problems? My guess is that your main problems right now are operational – at that level of pageviews, just keeping the site up would be a challenge. I’d go for people who can help you with that – operations people, a DBA, maybe a few SW engineers. I’m an engineer, so I’m probably biased, but I don’t understand the emphasis on sales. Based on your earlier posts, I thought AdWords were bringing you scads of money. Sounds to me like revenue isn’t your problem, operations is. Also, Jeff mentioned a CEO – once you get a few employees, you’ll need support staff – unless you like doing HR and accounting.

  39. meir Says:

    You forgot hiring someone to watch the $. Once you start with invoicing multiple clients and not just getting 1 check a month from Google, and you also have to deal with payroll, office expenses, etc. you’ll want a person to handle finance and keep your books under control. You may also want to hire an office manager.

    You forgot a bunch of other position including software testers, marketing, ad trafficking, etc,

    I found it interesting, and actually kind of funny, that you placed creative director as position #1 ahead of CEO (which was #2).

    I look forward to stoping by the office next time I’m in BC and seeing your new office complete with 20+ people. Best of luck.

  40. Rvander11 Says:

    Markus, plus, who says you have to manage everyone. Most organizations have a director or manager to relieve you of the pain. I know you know this… I am just surprised at al the “concerned” comments.

  41. SexyChill Says:

    markus your site is at top you dont have to wast your money on people who will do nothing new

  42. Terry T Says:

    Markus,

    It seems like you are contemplating an “either -or” scenario. Either I stay a one man show using Adsense for sales and my own skills for IT, or I build out a company. There may come a time to build out a company but there is an interim step you can consider. Why not outsource sales and IT to a couple of firms who can take you to the next level without the burden of hiring employees (and my day job is Human Resources) and getting pulled more and more into management activities? Sure, finding and working with external companies is work, but different work than spending time recruiting, interviewing and managing people issues.

    I have not looked into what firms are out there but I bet with your resources you can find them.

    Good luck!

  43. Edmunds Says:

    Sell the business while it’s hot!

    Failing that, get a sales team. $300k/mo really isn’t that much for the popularity of the site.

  44. Joe Says:

    Hire for what you need, not to match what other companies have.
    What are the things that you don’t want to do that are critical for the company?
    What are the areas of your company that need to grow and you will need someone in charge of making it happening?
    What kind of position do you want to maintain?
    All of that will influence where your money goes.

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  48. kazik Says:

    User interface wise your site is OK, but it will be helpfull if you can redesign the site. You definitely need to redesign the site.

    The site has so much success – and everytime I mention it to my friend – they go to the site and say awww – please redesign the site!

    -kazi

  49. Phil Says:

    One thing you might want to consider is hiring a co-op student. Sometimes you get a dud, but when you get a good one it is almost as good as a full time employee. They take a few weeks to bring up to speed, but they are cheap (approx. 22k a year), the government covers a portion of them, and they are gone in four months so its not a big deal if you don’t like them. I’ve seen students work as hard as I do to try and impress me.

    Anyway, I know it is out of date, but didn’t think it would hurt the conversation.

    Phil

  50. H Lewis Says:

    Markus, I have a viable simple, effective solution that can be implemented almost immediatly. Looking forward to sharing it with you. Thx, Heath Lewis

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