Human Resources

The 4 Types of Employees that Every Entrepreneur Should Know

John Greathouse is a General Partner at Rincon Venture Partners ( In this video he talks about the 4 types of employees that every entrepreneur should know.

  1. Superstar: low maintenance, high productivity
  2. Farm team: younger, need slight maintenance with potential productivity
  3. Waivers: high maintenance, low productivity
  4. Prima donna: high maintenance & high productivity
  5. Prima donnas can be beneficial as sole-contributors

Today when you look at potential employees at a startup based on the degree of maintenance or management they’re going to require and the opportunity they’re going to deliver, something interesting falls out and there’s really four types of individuals that I’m seeing commonly across a number of different startups.

One is the superstar. This is the one you want, the low maintenance, high productivity. You know, this is Cal Ripken, this is Michael Jordan. These are people that they show up every day to play. You know who’s going to show up and they put points on the board. Again, you know, you’d love to have everyone fall into that category but it’s not feasible.

So the next category is people that are—they need some management, they need some maintenance, and they have potential to be productive and these are younger people, the farm team. These are people that might not be playing in the bigs yet but they have potential and they tend to go two directions. They might mature to the point where they could become a superstar and you bring them up into the bigs or you might want to find another home for them if they never mature and their productivity is below their amount of maintenance they get to put in.

Third is, you know, the worst of all. It’s a high maintenance, low productivity. I think we’ve all seen these people. They’re always unhappy. They’re always complaining. It’s always someone else’s fault. They’ve never failed. It’s always someone else who’s failed on their behalf. You want to put these people on waivers. You want to get them off your roster and hope that somebody else picks them up because you love for them to be at your competitor because they’re poison. They’re bad for your culture.

And then lastly, the one you have to think about is the prima donna. Now this is someone that’s high maintenance yet they’re high productivity. So think about Reggie Jackson, Mister October. You know, this guy was undeniably difficult, punch the coach, punch his fellow players, claimed that he was the center of the universe when he was with the New York Yankees, yet he have the nickname Mister October for a reason because at the end of the season, when the chips are down, this man hit home runs. So when you’re hiring somebody like that, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want fights in the clubhouse? Do I want to deal with all these nonsense in exchange for those homeruns?” I think sometimes you might say yes, sometimes you might say no. You know, you could think of the Terrell Owens. You could think of Joe Namath. You could think of a lot of these people that you know they’re going to bring it but you’re never sure who’s going to show up. Am I getting Broadway Joe today or am I getting, you know, Joe Namath that’s going to throw five touchdowns.

And so as an entrepreneur, I tended to not hire these individuals. However, I have seen them be successful in one specific way. The way I’ve seen it work out is if you bring these folks in, you keep them segregated from the rest of your team and make them a sole-contributor. So they might be someone that’s on the road, they might be somebody that’s outward focused that, you know, generating media buzz for you. But in any event, you don’t want them to poison your culture because what you don’t want to have is your farm team looking up to these people and saying, “Oh, that’s how you’ve succeeded this company. You become a jackass. As long as you deliver, you’ll be accepted.” So you don’t want it to poison your culture.

So be very careful when you’re evaluating these different—these four different types. Try to find a farm team that will turn to superstars. Keep your superstars happy. Stay away from the prima donnas and get rid of the people on waivers.