6 tips for SMEs before they hire a senior leader or executive

6 tips for SMEs before they hire a senior leader or executive

Your business has grown fast, you have a fantastic team in place. Now is the time to get some senior leaders in. They will become an integral part of the growth story and scale up the business further. But a hiring mistake at this level could result in the team breaking down, morale issues and even change the company perception dramatically. The methods you used to hire for lower levels will not be sufficient when hiring senior leaders.

Hiring a senior leader requires a more strategic approach. Lay the groundwork that makes your business attractive for a potential leader. The first thing the candidate will do is check your website and social media presence – make sure they are not dull. Cultural fit is much more important at this level – take it slow, and make sure the candidate you are interacting with shares the values your company believes in. He should have skills that complement your own skills – strong in the areas where you are weak. The process is not going to be easy. Here are 6 tips to help you through it:

1. Mark Zuckerberg, founder & CEO of Facebook, once said: “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.” This is great advice since you hire executives to not just execute what you believe in, but also to lead the company alongside you. As the business grows, the executive you hire maybe required to lead a business line while you are busy with another. Therefore, take time to ensure that you hire someone whose own values are a great fit with values you envision for your company.

2. A lot of founders get insecure when hiring executives. They are worried that if they hire someone more ambitious than themselves, the company will be hijacked. At other times they think a leader more talented themselves will not stay with them for long. Do not fall into this trap. As David Ogilvy, co-founder of O&M says: “If you always hire people who are smaller than you, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”

3. Integrity and strong work ethic are the most important factors behind a successful SME. If you end up hiring an intelligent and energetic executive – who lacks integrity, your company will not survive in the long run. You have to start with good people and make sure they understand what is expected of them. Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway understood this very well when he said: “If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

4. A passive approach rarely works when hiring for leadership roles – you cannot place an ad and hope to build a candidate pool out of the applications you receive. Instead, actively approach people who you believe will be a good choice for your SME. Talk to them as much as possible – understand what drives them and how you can fuel that drive. Guy Kawasaki, founder of multiple successful Silicon Valley startups put it this way: “As the last step in the recruiting process, apply the Shopping Center Test. It works like this: Suppose you’re at a shopping center, and you see the candidate. He is fifty feet away and has not seen you. You have three choices: (1) beeline it over to him and say hello; (2) say to yourself, ‘This shopping center isn’t that big; if I bump into him, then I’ll say hello, if not, that’s okay too’; (3) get in your car and go to another shopping center. My contention is that unless the candidate elicits the first response, you shouldn’t hire him.”

5. The secret to growth – in any business big or small – is the founder’s ability to delegate. Therefore, hire people who are strong in the areas that you are weak. If you have a great head for marketing, do not go out and hire someone who is a great marketer himself. Instead, find someone who is great at people management. As Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group puts it: “I surround myself with people who have knowledge and talents in areas where I might not be so well versed.”

6.Keep communication lines with your employees open. Understand what they need, when you have chosen a few candidates – do get the feedback from people they would lead at your SME. Let us conclude with what Larry Ellison, executive chairman and CTO of Oracle, said when asked about how he built a successful organization: “When I started Oracle, what I wanted to do was to create an environment where I would enjoy working. That was my primary goal. Sure, I wanted to make a living…But I really wanted to work with people I enjoyed working with, who I admired and liked.”