The best way to avoid being taken by surprise with the makeup of your executive team is to plan ahead by creating a one-year vision. Your one-year vision will allow you to clarify what positions need to be filled and under what terms, while also thinking strategically about who to fill those with.
Businessman Pat Powers once said, “We hire people for what they can do and fire them for who they are.” I love this comment because it’s so painfully true. We so often look at a person’s skills and assume that’s who they are. And then, time after time, we’re surprised when the real person shows up. But, if you’ve read the preceding chapters, you’ll know why hiring for skills alone doesn’t work. I recommend that, before you hire your key people, you take a step back and examine what you really need to accomplish in the next year. Or, if your team is already in place, take a second look at them based on what needs to be accomplished, and, conversely, what has not been accomplished that you had hoped would be. Taking a moment to reflect on your goals will help you be smarter about putting together your executive team.
If you’re in start-up mode, there are a lot of things that need to happen in short order, and, more often than not, cash will be a critical factor. Nonetheless, before you dive into that stack of resumes, take some time to review your Intentional Purpose in order to gain a real understanding of the skill sets and key positions your company needs in order to succeed over the next year. We’ll talk about how to choose people who fit your culture in Chapter Four, but first you need to clarify the positions you need to fill. Let’s start by setting out some basic guidelines.
First, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the structure you’re implementing now is permanent. Some positions are strictly start-up, temporary, or contract. For example, perhaps you need a good finance person for year one to get the business on a solid footing but having someone full-time in that position might be overkill on an ongoing basis. A contract CFO might fit the bill for now, and you can always readjust expectations for the position as your business develops. If Research and Development are a top priority, don’t hesitate to get the best you can for the money right from the start because time to market is critical. If immediate sales are necessary, then hire a hunter and let that person loose! The point is to prioritize your needs, define the positions, and hire accordingly.
If your team is already in place, take a hard look at what has and has not been accomplished. What is your vision for the next couple of years? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your team in light of that vision? If you had to do it all over again, would you hire the same people with the same skills? Resets are a continuous part of running a successful business, but we’re often reluctant to do so with people. Don’t be, or you’ll have trouble meeting your growth goals. Consider yourself in start-up mode. Go through the thought process outlined in the paragraph above and then apply it to your current executive team. What do you see when you look through a reset lens? You might be surprised, both positively and negatively. Now, based on what you see, make the changes necessary to achieve the vision of your organization.
Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.