In the early days of running your own business, it’s natural to try to do as much as possible yourself. It’s the most cost-effective, comfortable, sensible way to do things in the beginning. But as your enterprise grows, you’ll find yourself stretched thinner and thinner. Eventually, you’ll find you just can’t continue to oversee operations and sales and accounting and fulfillment and marketing — and hope to continue to grow your business.
When you reach this point, it’s time to think about bringing other high-level managers on board to help you out. You need to build a senior team that’s able to manage all the critical areas of your business to take it to the next level.
Finding your team members
Unfortunately, good executives don’t grow on trees. Since their decisions can make or break your business, you want the best. Newspapers, classified ads and Internet bulletin boards are not the way to go. And mass-market ads will attract exactly that — the mass market, people who have no other job prospects.
If you have the funds available, executive search firms are a good way to go. Although they charge through the nose to find candidates, they do due diligence and present you with pre-screened candidates. They also monitor the pool of executive talent and are able to reach candidates you couldn’t approach on your own.
Networking is a time-honoured way to find new hires. Let your professional and personal networks know what kind of person you’re looking for. Then get one-on-one introductions, and take the candidate to lunch to test the chemistry.
Once you’ve got a potential candidate, how will you know for sure they can do the job? Executives have great impact — on employees, on systems, on profits — so it’s worth your time to check them out thoroughly. Call each of their references, and listen between the lines.
Delegating to your new executives
Once the new members of your team are on board, it’s time for the truly hard part: trusting them. Your gut will fight you every step of the way. You’ll assume your instructions are clear and misunderstandings are their fault. You’ll assume when you disagree that you’re right and they’re wrong. But you’ll sometimes be wrong. The key to successful executive relationships is changing what your gut tells you.
Remember how you interviewed for trust? That’s important because once you hire an executive team, you must let them take their responsibilities and run with them. That means agreeing with them about what their roles are, what deliverables they’re responsible for and on what timeframe.
It’s also worth deciding in advance how you’ll handle disagreements. You hired this person assuming their judgement was better than yours. So when you disagree, if you did your job right, chances are that they’re right and you’re wrong. Discuss early on how you’ll make the call, so you get the most benefit from constructive conflict. Just remember: If you agree on everything, one of you is redundant.
Reaching your goals
When the time comes to sit down with your potential candidate, there are a few things you should know that will make your job a little easier:
- Interview for chemistry. Do you trust this candidate? Do you want to spend time with them? Believe me when I say, you don’t want an abrasive team member, no matter how talented they may be.
- Talk to people from your candidate’s former company. Are the candidate’s claims of divine brilliance reflected in what their former peers and subordinates have to say about them? Find out if they got the work done and also how they contributed to the company’s culture.
- Always hire really smart people. Here’s a good guideline to follow: Every new hire should increase your company’s average IQ. That means they should all be smarter than you.
Get used to it.
- Look for evidence of learning ability. Will your candidate repeat mistakes they’ve made in the past? Or will they learn from those errors and adapt that knowledge to your company?
- Use ‘behaviour description interviewing’ techniques. Don’t ask about principles, knowledge or ‘what if’ stories. Instead, ask your potential executive team member to share specific past events. Their stories will reveal their values, skills and abilities. For example, you might ask a CFO to describe a budget they set up and how they handled it when a manager exceeded their budget and asked
Entrepreneurship is about going for the things that are much bigger than what you could do alone. Your job isn’t to reach the goal; it’s to build a team that will reach the goal. If you really want to reach your goals, you’ll need to bring on others to help, and creating a good executive team means knowing what you need them to do, finding good candidates, and giving them what they need to do their jobs. If you choose well, they’ll be successful and make you successful as well.