The right way to build your A-Team

Look for a search partner who is committed to understanding your business and culture


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We call it “the big transition point.” It is that seminal moment in the life of a business when a missed opportunity is limiting growth and you just can’t get a grasp on how to delegate the stress away. As the company leader, there are not enough hours in the day and you’re simply leaving too much on the table.

It’s at this point that many CEOs begin the search for a second-in-command. What many don’t realize is that even though the company is no longer a startup, there are still important approaches and strategies you, as a CEO, must understand before the company and its team is ready to embrace the next phase of maturity.

I am here to share my experience with you and prepare you for the unpleasant news that those important strategies are almost impossible to implement while you’re also managing the crucial daily operations that keep the lights on. That’s all before you embark on an exhaustive executive-level search for your new Number Two.

If this sounds familiar, it should. This pain point is common among fast-growing organizations, especially when the organization has excelled in meeting demand and scaling talent. Rightly so, you’ve optimized your HR department tactically to respond to employee concerns or operational efficiencies. But that leaves an internal gap in strategic recruiting and executive search expertise, bringing the task back to your very full plate.

At some point, you will hit a wall. It’s sobering to realize that after spending so much time deciding which decisions to make, there’s no time left to do anything strategic. The reluctance to let go of certain business tasks can have a negative effect on business growth, but doing so gives you back your leadership perspective and allows you to better understand how to achieve the new goals you’ve set for your company.

Only from there is it possible to create an internal framework that results in an updated organizational chart, along with qualities you look for in a new leader.

Instead of focusing on the lines and boxes of your organizational chart, outline the type of people you want to hire and the qualities you want them to have. This exercise will help shape staff development and maps how you’ll help them grow professionally by being clear about the personality, fit and skill set your company needs to grow.

An average search for an executive-level hire takes about 100 days. The search may take even longer if you’re figuring out your organizational and operational growth strategy while actively recruiting. Don’t waste time interviewing the wrong people, with the wrong skills, recommended by people who don’t intimately understand your company history and future goals. A decision like this is too important.

It’s time for a super-targeted executive-level search based on your individual company, market, goals, personality, challenges and strengths, all driven by a refreshingly unbiased team of business strategists. Look for a search partner
who is committed to understanding
your business and culture instead of one who comes to you with a list of individuals whose skills align with a job description.

Along with access to training, research and an expansive network of professionals, pulling in help to manage your executive search also helps protect what you’ve achieved so far. Delegating to a firm with expertise in C-suite placements, adds strategic oversight to the specific search so that your HR department can focus on helping to assure that your current team is running at optimum efficiency.

Your excitement for your product or service successfully fueled the first phase of business growth. The best counsel I can give a company at this important milestone: find someone who is as excited at growing your company as you were in founding it.

Your competition has its best team on the job when it comes to recruiting new executives. You should, too. 

Kelley Small, a principal at Standish Executive Search, and an advisor and leadership director of the CEO Connection, can be reached at 774-261-0143 or ksmall@standishsearch.com.

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