“If you want to successfully scale, you’re going to need a leadership team underneath you that’s going to help you to make that happen. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to execute…” Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn on scale-ups during this podcast.
Growing from (say) 50-150 people is a game-changer, and notoriously challenging. There’s an intricate balance to strike. Maintaining the personality that made you successful, whilst adding the rigour of a grown-up business.
Hiring technical talent is one thing – that’s easier said than done – but bringing in people at an executive-level is an altogether different beast.
For scale-ups, these hires are arguably the most impactful you’ll make and should be carefully considered.
I recommend giving the following some thought.
1. You can try before you buy.
Rarely is it the case that you know precisely what you’re trying to achieve with a brand new senior appointment. Nor is it easy to project the type of skills and personality that will deliver the right outcomes. And that’s OK. There’s a huge market of executive interim talent that can help you work this out. You don’t have to commit to a full-time, permanent, salaried, employee from day one.
Bringing in an ‘interim’ for a short period of time can provide insight and clarify your thinking. Meanwhile, they make significant improvements to the team and the business whilst you look for your permanent candidate. And don’t rule out appointing the interim on a permanent basis, either. I’ve seen this work incredibly well for both parties.
2. Known quantities aren’t always the right quantities.
You might be aware of the specific people you want to hire through your industry contacts. And, in many cases, your investors will have a credible network and an equally credible opinion. There are compelling reasons to hire ‘known quantities’.
However, just because somebody comes recommended, or has an excellent personal brand, that doesn’t automatically equal success in your business delivering the right outcomes. Test the wider talent market. I’ve witnessed that a little more rigour can yield a lot more satisfaction at the result. Even if it simply validates the investors’ bet.
3. Great people cost more than you think.
Your current senior team has been with you through thick and thin. They’re loyal, know the business, are invested and have been instrumental in your success to date.
But what got you here might not get you there. At some point, you will look to the external talent market to seriously kick-on. External candidates will be successful, sought after and, as a result, well paid.
It’s common for founders/CEOs to significantly underestimate this point. Yes, the right candidate will join you for the right reason – they’re sold on the product, the people and the vision – so there will be some room for negotiation.
But there’s a strong chance your next hire will be the highest-paid person in your business. Are you ready for that?
4. Have you balanced the team?
Sometimes things can go so well that you’re like a kid in a sweet shop. You have a wad of cash to spend on the best people and candidates are falling over themselves to join you. In this instance, we’ve seen people tempted to bring in as many ‘big hitters’ as they can. This is only successful when you’ve considered the ‘balance’ of the top table.
Diversity in all its forms has endless benefits. Though, I want to emphasise a balanced ‘structure’ here, with a focus on skills. Are there clear delineations in terms of expertise, accountability, and agenda? Experienced teams will often overlap, and this is healthy in moderation. But the really successful scale-ups get the right people in the right seats, making them accountable for the area in which they are uniquely skilled.
5. Word gets around.
Your brand isn’t just about your product and your buyer’s perception. It’s a small world and people will talk about their experience with your business on all fronts, including the recruitment process.
You should welcome this as an opportunity to differentiate. A smooth journey and clear, timely communications go far. Whilst news of a shoddy experience travels fast. I’ve spoken to so many candidates who “wouldn’t touch ‘company x’ with a barge pole” due to a poorly managed recruitment process. Don’t be ‘company x’.
I don’t expect this to be a eureka moment for you, but it’s easy to jump headlong into a hiring exercise without thinking it through.
Even if you give the above points a moment’s thought, it can pay considerable dividends.
If you’d like to talk it through, get in touch.