GOING FRACTIONAL: Last January, I received a call from a Houston-based founder of a $3 million DTC firm (~400K EBIT) who thought he needed a full-time CMO, yet kept describing his real need as having a “second in command.”
Basically what he needed was more adult supervision for when he traveled …
HIM: “Put your hand in a bucket of water: Now take it out. That’s what happens when I’m on the road. Stuff goes back to the way it was.”
ME: “It sounds like you need a babysitter.”
HIM: “Well, no. I need to grow the business and I have a very young team. Early 20s on avg.”
“… There’s a lot they don’t know about DTC ecom — especially marketing and merchandising — and they need to be mentored by someone who can lead by example. Show-and-tell.”
“… I’ve thought about hiring an experienced, on-site, 40-hr/wk, six-figure Head of DTC, but I need to invest my cashflow in other areas of the business.”
“… It’d be great to have someone truly committed, hands-on, 10-15 hrs/wk, possibly going full-time when I can afford it. Not a consultant. I could probably pay $30K per year for this. Does such an animal exist?”
— // —
The answer to his question, of course, is YES.
He has perfectly described a fractional leader. And he might have realized this soon after our call — but when he rang me up, neither of us was sure.
All he knew was he had a problem.
And that, Gentle Reader, is where his problem ends and YOUR problem begins.
If YOU were a professional fractional ecom leader, you might struggle to ramp up a full-time “caseload” of legitimate fractional clients.
Think about it:
To uncover the *true latent demand* for such a service, you’d need to market like one of those asbestos class-action lawyers on late-night TV …
A potential plaintiff may have a legitimate need for what you offer — but they’d never know it until you presented it to them as a solution for what’s keeping them up at night.
You need clients to raise their hands.
Many founders don’t still don’t know that fractional help is even a thing, and you can’t google what you don’t know exists.
Plus: Often, the symptoms are mild / varied / chronic, not sharp / specific / episodic, and many founders take the attitude that “if they want something done right, they need to do the work themselves.”
🟥 Anyway, it took me 45-mins to tease out this guy’s true business need.
I know of a few A-players (Bruce Millard, for example) who are managing to build stellar reputations as fractional guns-for-hire, but for the rest of you full-timers, here’s my question:
🟥 If you knew for SURE that you could affordably sustain enough high-quality demand, would you PREFER to do fractional work — or are you more fulfilled as a full-time employee?