Growth always comes with new hiring. While every hire is important, you will make most decisions with the other members of your executive team, and you will quite likely spend the most time with them. That’s why a rock-solid relationship is the key to a new executive hire.
How do you do it? How do you pick the right person to oversee large sections of your company? While I’ve used recruiters and job listings to find good people in the past, when it comes to an executive hire, I don’t leave things to chance.
My company brought on a gentleman named Matt to be chief sales officer. I want to tell the story of that decision to illustrate what I mean by my two points above.
What you’re truly looking for, beyond a skill set, is a relationship. Good people are not easy to come by. Then how do you find them? These guiding points helped me.
Always look for opportunities.
Two years ago, I was working with Matt closely when he was with another employer. I admired the way every customer and client knew him. In fact, very early on, I planted the seed of the idea that he and I would work together.
After hours, over the course of two years, Matt and I would grab dinners and catch up. We each got a better understanding of how the other works and thinks.
Get the business ready for the person.
A business needs to be at a certain place before a new executive role can be understood. Invest in creating a company culture people want to be a part of.
Get the person ready for the business.
After you plant the seed of an idea, you need to water it. Figure out if you’re on the same page well ahead of time.
Consider vision, morals and ethics.
“Are we on the same page?” It takes time to answer that question confidently, but it’s so worth it. When figuring out the answer to whether we’re on the same page, I look for two things:
1. An understanding of the new executive member’s roots.
2. A shared big-picture vision.
Take as many conversations as you need with your potential hire to figure out if your values align. I know in my case, it was a long, ongoing series of conversations. Trust me, it is worth the time.
Understand your executive hire’s roots.
I’m in the trailer parts industry. If I’m going to hire a new member of the executive team, obviously I need someone with a thorough understanding of the game. Matt had 28 years of experience under his belt, and that started with a warehouse job pulling parts (for $6.35 an hour, in those days). He quickly moved up to sales. Well, Matt’s a Texan, and the leadership at the time saw some potential in his self-described “immature emails and mouthing off.” (Remember, this was 28 years ago.) Matt was recommended for a sales position where he wound up responsible for a degree of leadership that dramatically outpaced his title. And he rose to the occasion based on a value I share: If you make a promise to a customer, keep it. Rising to the occasion brought more mentors and responsibilities into Matt’s life, and as someone who has learned so much from my own mentors, that was a career arc I understood.
Share a big-picture vision with your executive hire.
The bigger a mission is, the simpler your mission statement should be. Values are the foundation of any organization or company. I have a complicated business with many moving parts, but it rests on a firm foundation of two values:
1. Take care of the customer.
2. Take care of the employees.
To be honest, Matt’s career had taken him to a place that he described as a little too corporate. Many big corporations fall into the trap of building impersonal processes that have needless bureaucracy and lose track of their values.
One of the things that brought Matt on board was an understanding, appreciation and belief in those two core values I named.
Look for a strong desire to win.
Matt and I see the winner in every member of our team. We both make it a top priority to nurture those best aspects so they can thrive and flourish. I want to finish with three bullets about the direction Matt will go with the team:
• Coach and teach our current team because they can achieve more than they think they can. When adding new team members, make sure we pick winners.
• Keep it simple to take care of the customer.
• Praise and reward the team as often as they deserve it while at the same time pushing the processes that will push them to be better.
If you clarify what you are looking for in a leadership team member first and then do the due diligence it takes to find the right person, it is always worth it.