So, finally, it happened. Randstad, the international staffing behemoth, bought Monster last week for $429 million. Yep, million. As in several hundred million less than Monster’s 2015 gross revenues.
There was a lot of analysis, some of it quite good. But I’m going to talk about this from a very different perspective – one drawn from my experience in and outside of the job board industry, one that is very much colored by my experiences in privately-held companies that became publicly held.
For me, Monster is a perfect example of how the stock market can screw up a good company. Let me rephrase that – by chasing quarterly goals that may or may not make business sense, companies like Monster forget about their customers and employees, and instead optimize themselves for meeting or exceeding those quarterly goals.
Now, don’t get me wrong – goals are great. They get you from point A to point B. They encourage you to do things that you didn’t believe you could. And they help a business excel instead of simply muddling through. But when a privately-held company transitions to being publicly held, they give up control over a lot of things – and quite often, one of those things is business goals that make business sense. Instead, they are encourage by their board or the analysts or even their internal staff (um, at least those with options) to chase earnings and growth at all cost.
Does this happen every time a company goes public. No. But many companies in our industry have gone public and struggled. Dice did – I know. It struggled so much it went bankrupt in the early 2000s. LinkedIn was struggling.
So which companies aren’t struggling (or perhaps, we simply don’t know one way or the other)? Indeed did a wonderful sidestep – they have all the benefits of going public without the steady glare of the market. Recruit provides lots of cover for them. Sometimes I think that’s why LinkedIn took Microsoft’s offer – it gave them some needed cover from the market. CareerBuilder is in a similar ‘cloaked’ position. Now Monster gets to join the club.
(No, I’m not anti-stock market – I own plenty of stocks. But I guarantee – JobBoardDoctor LLC isn’t going public!)
There is one other factor that bedeviled Monster for decades. It was what I call the curse of being number 1. Why a curse? Because when you’re number 1 – especially for an extended period of time, like Monster was – you think that you can do no wrong. You think that every project you launch is GREAT. You tend to belittle your competitors. And you certainly slide into telling your customers that you know what’s best for them.
Think about it. Pretend you’re Monster. You’re number 1, with the attitude to match. You’re obsessed with your quarterlies. And you’ve forgotten why you’re in business.
It was bound to end in a whimper.[Want to get Job Board Doctor posts via email? Subscribe here.]