How To Hire Elite Talent When You Don’t Have Any Money?

brett fox
4 min readApr 25

“He wants a salary of $200,000, but I can’t afford to pay him that,” “Stefan” said to me.

“Then he doesn’t fit your company culture right now,” I said. “That’s okay…”

Picture: Depositphotos

“Why is it okay?” Stefan asked me. “And what does it have to do with our culture.”

“If you hire him, you’ll destroy your company culture,” I said.

“I don’t get it,” Stefan said. “I need great engineers, and I need to pay them well.”

“Yeah, I get that,” I said. “I’ve been in the exact situation you’ve been in. Let me explain how I handled it.”

You have to sell like crazy to recruit top talent.

Years ago, I was in a meeting with “Peter” and Jack Gifford, the founding CEO of Maxim Integrated Products. Maxim’s revenue was around $1 billion at the time of this meeting.

Peter had just been named Managing Director of the Engineering organization for a business unit that built amplifiers. It was a big deal for Peter to get this promotion, yet he was unhappy.

“Jack, I’m worried about being able to recruit engineers into the business unit,” Peter said.

You see, in the world of analog integrated circuits, designing amplifiers wasn’t considered a sexy thing to do. Thus, the worry Peter had about recruiting top talent.

Gifford, however, was having none of it, and rightly so. He looked at Peter and yelled, “You sell your fucking ass off! That’s how!”

Peter got the message. It was the last time Peter ever complained about recruiting. And, as I remember it, Peter was quite successful recruiting top engineering talent into his organization.

So what does recruiting in a $1 billion company have to do with recruiting when you have no money?

Well, at first blush, you could say it’s totally different recruiting for a $1 billion company than a cash strapped startup, and you’d be right. However, the basics are the same; you have to sell your ass off.

You have to get talent to buy into your vision.

brett fox

I work with startup CEOs to help them grow their businesses . I built several businesses from $0 to >$100M. Learn more at