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(July 13, 2001) Who else could pull off a NASDAQ delisting, a five for one stock reversal and an additional 20% decline in price without anyone noticing? Our friends at WebHire (now trading as HIRED on a bulletin board) have managed to drive the company's valuation down to $12M without anyone even glancing at the news. Fingernails clawing the ledge, the company is positioned for collapse and still no one notices.

Along with IHRIM (the dead trade show) and Resumix, the graveyard is reaching its capacity for old time players who couldn't convert their bad reputations into web businesses. The current market is simply kinder to upstarts like Recruitsoft who know how to give back (Their positioning of iLogos as the marketing front end of the business is simply brilliant.) While old school Marketers, with their deeply ingrained bias to hide bad news and spin away disasters can accomplish a feat like hiding a delisting. They simply fail to enthuse their customers.

Generational changes in market leadership are infrequent occurrences. It's easy to get lost trying to track all of the newcomers and recent fatalities; the dot com cash infusion our industry received destabilized the existing order and created entrance opportunity for fresh approaches. Not surprisingly, the market uncertainty from an onrush of new players gave cover to the miserable performance of the old stalwarts. The underpinnings of last year's marketing message from the veterans was "better a known evil than an unknown one."

Squeezing the last bits of cash from the most conservative customers in the base, Webhire is preparing to take its investors an another leg of the downhill slide. Pretty soon, their marketing should start to emphasize the intimacy that can be had from a player whose account manager to customer ratio is approaching 1:1. Then, they will have completed the transformation from going concern to adaptive bootstrap startup. Unfortunately for their customers, it's the wrong direction.

The big players who have replaced the veterans should make note of the predictable near term passing of this pioneering organization. Being first and biggest doesn't guarantee anything. The arrogance that comes with market leadership is a trait that should be identified and quashed immediately. Unfortunately, that over-self-confidence is a logical outgrowth of the tenacity required to enter the game in the first place. Effective management of the dynamic requires very seasoned leadership.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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