What to Hire & When | Top Executive Recruiters | Cowen Partners

      What to Hire & When

      As a startup founder, you could be making any of your first hires soon. If you’re doing well and can afford to hire an experienced executive, they could be a great asset to your company. But…

      • What kind of executive should it be? A CEO, COO, or President?
      • How do you define the role and what do they actually do?
      • How do you know when it’s the right time to hire each?

      When you’re growing a startup, you need to do more than hire talented people. You need to hire the right people at the right time – when they can have the most impact and help you get to the next level.

      This can be challenging if you are not experienced in managing executive-level talent. In this guide, we’re going to look at the executive positions for which you may be hiring and at which points in your company’s growth you should consider bringing additional people onboard. 

      What Are You Trying to Accomplish?

      When it comes to hiring, your first step is to identify your goals for the position. What do you hope the new hire will be able to accomplish? Do you need someone to fill a gap at an existing level of the company, or do you need someone who can help take things to the next level and grow your business?

      You may not know what kind of person could help propel your company forward. Usually, there are various characteristics that may be especially helpful for meeting all of your other needs. Maybe you’re opening up a second location, so someone with expansion experience would be great. Maybe you’ve been growing quickly but haven’t put much emphasis on company culture yet, so someone with strong leadership skills or deep HR experience might be just what you need.

      Examine and identify:

      • The talent you need to compete against specific market conditions or specific competitors 
      • How you can build teams that can grow and scale your business
      • Identify your company’s pain points
      • Understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses

      Go through a process of figuring out what’s most important to your product and business. This can be based on whatever criteria make sense for your business (e.g., getting MQLs, revenue, signups, etc.). It’s also important to factor in competition or other factors that make it more difficult to reach that goal.

      It’s important to focus on foundational investments in people and technology, as opposed to investing a lot of time and energy in building short term relationships with people that will only be part of your company for a short period of time.

      Use Intentional Organization Design

      The most successful organizations are deliberate and intentional about their culture. They can articulate a vision for the enterprise that is grounded in values, and they express that vision in terms of how people at all levels work together to create value for customers and other stakeholders.

      The clear articulation of values enables people in the organization to make choices about how to behave and interact with others. Values give them something to look to when they’re faced with ambiguity or uncertainty. The values provide a compass on which they can rely when they need guidance.

      Values serve as guardrails, helping you avoid decisions and behaviors that fall outside the boundaries defined by your organization’s culture

      Keep your values in mind when you begin hiring new team members and executives. If your employees and your executives do not align with your vision and your company culture, you’ll find sources of entropy in your organization. By using thoughtful methods to layer your management structure, you’ll build a company of employees that align with your values and help propel your organization forward. 

      Your values will help you determine who to hire and when. If you value growth, you may prioritize hiring a marketing executive for your team. If finances are your primary concern, hiring a CFO may be your first priority. Using the intentional organization design approach, you can define these values and begin hiring valuable team members.

      Adopt a Flexible Mindset

      Today, most companies organize around processes or functions to attempt to eliminate inefficiencies and increase productivity. This approach served them well when the operating environment was relatively stable and predictable.

      But times have changed. The speed at which business moves today is much greater than it was 20 years ago. The shift from mass production to mass customization has created new business opportunities, but it has also made many traditional processes less effective.

      This shift in the operating environment is creating a need for more flexibility. Companies find that they can no longer count on following the same processes year after year. Instead, they must be able to adapt their processes quickly to changing circumstances.

      The challenges most companies face are not only about how to operate more efficiently but also about how to organize for the future. To succeed in today’s competitive economy, you must be flexible, dynamic, and willing to break away from typical hiring structures. 

      Rethink how you hire and organize your teams. It’s no longer enough to focus on the skills your employees have now. You also have to think about the skills your employees will need in the future.

      Consider Your Competitors

      The best way to figure out what to focus on is to look at who your competitors are hiring. If you’re operating in an industry that has a ton of competitors, look at the most successful ones – the ones that seem like they’re doing something right. What do their teams look like?

      If they’re doing something that’s creating success and your business is not, that is a pain point for your organization. Alternatively, if you’re doing something innovative, you have an opportunity to fill needs your competitors are not meeting. 

      Think about how hiring the right people can help you bridge gaps between your competitors or push your advantage further ahead. For example, if your company’s online content is falling behind your competitors’ content, you may consider hiring an SEO manager who can implement strategies that bring similar results. 

      You could also hire an SEO manager to push your advantage further if your website is currently ranking above your competitors’ pages.

      Parting Thoughts

      How do you know when you should hire a business development person? When do you need to hire an operations specialist, and when should a CFO join your team? None of this is obvious, even if you have a set of business goals. The most successful companies are the ones that put their hiring decisions under a microscope and look at how the new role impacts their direction towards the next milestone.

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      Our hands-on executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEOChief Operating OfficerChief Financial Officer, and include vice presidentgeneral counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Cowen Partners delivers 3X more qualified candidates than the competition. Through our proven retained executive search process, we find, vet, and deliver the top 1% of candidates for positions across the C-suite. Our process works for all industries, including technologyhealthcaremanufacturingretailreal estatefinancial serviceprivate equity, and more.

      Learn how we deliver top talent, no matter the need, with our industry-leading research and resources. Discover the strategy that made Cowen Partners the top retained executive search firm in New York CityAnchorage, Miami, Boston, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and beyond.

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