Human Resources

Types of Business Person: Are You a Bank Robber or an ATM Operator?

John Greathouse is a General Partner at Rincon Venture Partners ( In this video he talks about types of business persons: are you a bank robber or an ATM operator.

  1. "Bank robber" is excited for the heist
  2. "ATM operator” likes consistency & is risk-averse
  3. Both types are valuable depending on the specific situation
  4. "Bank robbers" aid in starting & building a company, "ATM operators" maintain the business

So I like to boil things down to very elementary levels, and to me there are two types of people in business; there’s bank robbers and there’s ATM operators.

The bank robber is the kind of person you want to hire at the beginning of your venture. This is the person that wants to take the bank down, right? It’s the challenge of getting into that vault and getting out again without getting caught.

That’s what gets them excited. They don’t even know how much money is in the vault. The vault might be empty. It might be full of cash. But, that’s not what driving them, what’s driving them is the heist, the planning of the heist, the camaraderie of joining a team that has an audacious plan that they’re going to try to pull off.

The other type of person is an ATM operator. This is someone who is very happy to stay in line every two weeks, put in their PIN number and get an exact amount of money out that they know. It’s their paycheck, right? They don’t mind getting that paycheck.

And once a year if they are a good little boy or girl they will get a little 3% to 5% raise, okay? And they are perfectly happy with that. What’s important from an entrepreneur standpoint is to understand that both of these types of people are valuable, and they have a value – they have different relative values at different stages of your venture.

In the early days you got to hire the bank robbers, right? You got to hire the folks that are willing to thwart the police and take the bullets and drive the getaway car and take all kinds of risk and enjoy that.

But, as you mature one mistake that I made early in my career was I just kept hiring bank robbers and I was hiring bank robbers when I really should have been hiring ATM operators. Hey, you know what? If you’ve got a couple of hundred people at your company and somebody needs to go home at 5:00 to pick their kid up from daycare, that’s okay.

An ATM operator is looking for a job. They are looking for a paycheck, whereas the bank robbers looking for an adventure. So I think the key for an entrepreneur is to make sure that you are not putting a value on different types of people. Just make sure that you’re hiring the right person at the right time in your venture so that they can be successful and that your company can mature appropriately.