Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Seasoned Executive at Your ScaleUp

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You’re a first time founder and have never managed a company before. Your company has raised significant capital and your board is beginning to realize that the current leadership, who have given their blood, sweat and tears to get you this far, are not the right people to take your company to scale. It is important to find executives who have done this before. You need to find executives with extensive experience. But, how do you know if someone is right for your company?

There are many risks. If the executive is unable to make the business grow, it will be a wasteful of time, money, and opportunity cost. You’ll also disappoint your most loyal employees , who are already disappointed in you for putting someone above them. Time is against you, which will make matters even more complicated. You are in the ScaleUp phase which requires speed and precision. How can you minimize risk and hire the best person to scale your business?

As a business psychologist and advisor to many high growth companies, I have seen CEOs make costly mistakes and make great hires. These are my recommendations for what to look for during the interview process:

1. Look for adaptability and willingness to think outside of their playbook

A seasoned executive should never rest on their laurels. They should be able identify the methods that helped them achieve success in their previous roles. A Chief Revenue Officer, for example, should describe a specific method that allowed their sales team to exceed revenue targets. The Chief Product Officer should explain the philosophy that allowed them to move from delivering just one product to multiple products. This is only a small part of the picture.

Beware candidates who claim their playbook is “bulletproof” and “can be used at any organization.” Instead, ask questions like “While this process or framework has been successful in the past it might not work well at your company.” Before I make large-scale changes, I need to get to know the intricacies of your company. “

I have worked with two CROs in different SaaS businesses .. One of them came in confident and told the CEO and his new executive peers his proven sales methodology could be used by any vertical B2B SaaS company. The CRO failed to recognize the pitfalls in adapting his strategy at the new company and was fired within one year.

The other CRO had over 25 years of experience and a sales process he believed in. The framework was not working after he tried it for three months. He spent six months studying the business and what made it different from other companies. He was able to create a unique process that was right fit for the company. His approach ultimately helped them achieve scale.

Related: Hiring A CEO? Use These 5 Methods to Find A Leader You Can Trust

2. Look for vision and energy in addition to experience

Moving from a startup to ScaleUp is one of the hardest transitions high-growth companies have to make. It is essential that new executives have the energy and will to face the challenges ahead.

But it’s more than stamina. Vision is also essential for them. They must also have vision. The most successful executives are not just functional leaders, but business leaders. ScaleUp executives need to have experience and a track record. It’s a good idea to have experience in scaling. I’ve seen CEOs hire executives that spent 15-20 years at 50,000-person organizations, only to regret it. Sometimes these leaders work out. But many times they don’t. Companies like Oracle or Salesforce are considered stabilized businesses that moved through the ScaleUp phase a long time ago. Recognizability should not be taken as a sign of weakness.

Related: The 4 Biggest Mistakes New Executives Make

3. Identify where their playbook is at odds with your culture

Sometimes an executive’s method contrasts with your company’s current climate, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you. You just need to be smart about how you implement it.

For example, I worked with a Chief Product Officer who subscribed to agile product management and building empowered product teams. He assured everyone that his philosophy would take the company to new heights. Although they agreed with him, the founders didn’t consider the fact that this method was fundamentally different from their current process. They could have implemented the new executive’s improved process faster if they had realized the fundamental differences sooner. This cost them both time and money.

It’s easy to put off executive hiring decisions and promote from within. You know that success is not always found in the easy route. You’re still learning. This can be a strength. Take these strategies into the executive hiring process, and you’ll be one step closer to finding the leader you need to scale your business.

Related: 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Developer for a Product Team



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