Recruiting-industry watcher Cheezhead reports that job-board web-site TheLadders may be for sale. I agree. In Silicon Valley, it’s an old story. Does an entrepreneur start a company to create value, or with a quick exit strategy at the heart of the business plan?
When the entrepreneur comes from another company whose reputation is for bargain-basement wares that don’t work, you don’t even need to ask. Ladders founder Marc Cenedella came from HotJobs, that bastion of quality job-postings whose success at filling jobs doesn’t even warrant mention. Well, heck, let’s mention it anyway. CareerXroads reports that less than one-half of one percent (0.05%) of jobs filled by companies come from HotJobs. The product doesn’t work. (In comparison, Monster’s success rate among employers is around 2%. Whoo-wee. Compliment all the HR brainiacs who have sent billions of dollars to Monster.)
Did Cenedella start TheLadders to create value? The biz started out auspiciously enough. It was focused on the $100k+ market. The idea was that highly-paid folks would gladly pay to join so companies looking for the cream of the crop could easily find their resumes. Employers didn’t have to pay anything to post jobs. Today, employers pay TheLadders to post jobs. When you charge job-hunters and employers, something in your business model is awry.
But we already know that, thanks to One tiny $100k+ mistake.
So, what’s the story? Is this a top-quality business that has created so much value that prospective buyers are standing in line? Or, are the owners cashing out before the market realizes this ladder only goes down?
Very revealing is the carny-barker junk-mail campaign Ladders is using to carpet-bomb the market. Any party looking to acquire Ladders should look closely, because the cattle are being watered to drive up their weight just before delivery and slaughter. The quality of the junk-mail reveals that Ladders is targeting the way-sub-$100k job-hunter market. Executives, indeed. TheLadders is just another job board for desperate job hunters willing to fork over a few bucks for a Platinum Membership and the dream of a job. And just another job board for google-eyed investors looking for another Monster.
(Is there an MBA school out there that really trains HR execs and investment bankers to dump cash into products that don’t work?)
Also revealing is the company’s recent use-burn-and-dump campaign to start an executive-resume-writing business. Ladders partnered with independent, professional resume writers, picked their brains, then dumped them. According to several of these folks, TheLadders arranged to send them resume business in exchange for a reasonable commission on every resume sale. TheLadders’ own members got resume-writing services and everyone was happy. But, when the biz took off, TheWilyLadders raised its cut of every resume sale and eventually hired its own writing staff. Apparently, the quality of service has gone out the window. Customers no longer get direct contact with the writers doing their resumes. Apparently, the new bullpen at TheLadders works only from forms customers fill out. Some customers aren’t happy about that.
Perhaps this is the kind of shrewd business-development move potential buyers like. But TheLadders isn’t dealing with naive liberal-arts kids fresh out of school grateful for a short-term editing gig. The number of sophisticated, ticked-off resume writers telling their stories all over the Net suggests anyone looking at buying TheLadders oughta do a bit more due diligence on its new business unit. Several of these ex-partners claim client data they were given reveals that around 25% of resume customers are well below the $100k level Ladders brags about in its logo. If that’s true, I’d expect resume revenue to drop dramatically. Especially if the new resume bullpen writes as well as Cenedella does in the junk mail he sends out.
Nah, it’s no surprise TheLadders might be for sale. Cenedella came from HotJobs, another data base company that went the same route. These are not career businesses in any way, shape, or form — any more than Monster is. They create no value. They don’t fill jobs. They merely suck dollars into machines that recycle data base records. When your company’s product doesn’t work, then the market value of the company is a figment of some analyst’s short-term imagination. There is no value being created in amassing resumes that have a shelf-life of about a month.
Ladders may have started out with a relatively elite base of members. The new marketing campaigns are cattle calls, and what that should tell any prospective buyer is that this Ladder only goes down.