Many successful entrepreneurs reflect back to early stage recruiting activities as major lessons in developing their brand to another level. Recruiting for early stage business experiencing growth is a tough time. Hiring great people is a value that is easy to talk about and in every good business plan but as many entrepreneurs act, just nailing down available people seems most realistic. Founders own the brand delivery and vision but don’t have time to do anything that does not look like a fire. This recruiting reality can cause major stress on a brand. As recruiting mistakes are being fixed, entrepreneurs learn about themselves and their culture while building great teams. This makes them better. That is good, but these early stage recruiting mistakes can be minimized.
How Your Rapid Growth Business CAN Have a Healthy Culture
- Understand your brand of leadership
Entrepreneurs may listen to investors including venture capitalist when making key hires. Often these hires are based on good measures from past startup CEO, CFO, product or marketing types who have delivered on other portfolio companies. They also have a reputation and good working relationship with the investors. Make sure these people fit with you and your vision. See “always be recruiting” below.
Listen to those who are critical. As a matter of fact, retain people who are critical and help you be honest with your style and perception. Again, see “always be recruiting” below.
A number of years ago I was pointed to Leading at the Speed of Growth by an insightful advisory board member to an exciting company launch we were a part of. I had many successes as an executive recruiter including start-ups, but got caught up in the planning for rapid growth with this company. My role was to build the culture and recruit for tomorrow because tomorrow was now. Her experience told her I was allowing the visionary entrepreneur to build a plan that was recruiting at the wrong stage of leadership needs. This book was a great tool to help me address his brand of leadership and re-direct hiring based on the appropriate stage and leadership. I recommend this book. It covers:
– Initial Growth: The first stage after Start-up, when you need to change from a Doer and Decision Maker to a Delegator and Direction Setter.
– Rapid Growth: The stage when you strive to become a market leader — and need to change yourself into a Team Builder, a Coach, a Planner, and a Communicator. Entrepreneur John Fairclough, CEO, Resicom in Lemont, Ill wrote about this stage and how he got Too Big, Too Fast:How We Almost Lost Our Company Culture
– Continuous Growth: The stage when you need to explore new avenues for growth — and transform yourself into a Change Catalyst, an Organization Builder, a Strategic Innovator, and the Chief of Culture.
- Always be “on-brand”
Seems easy, but brand strategy is most critical during times of major peaks and valleys. This is where brand values are tested. Both the founder and the company. Recruiting activities are reflected here. Emotional people hire and fire for the wrong reasons or without defining actual problems. I have heard an interesting phrase from, and about, many founders or early stage CEOs once they have departed. People talk about the soul of the company leaving with them. I see this as a recruiting mistake. Hiring those who pound the brand drum like the passionate founder does is critical to culture. As sub cultures develop and businesses grow to the point where customers and suppliers feel like they are loosing what was once great about the brand, the people are the reason. This is how critical first hires recruiting strategies are. In order for teams to reflect the brand values and standards, these first hires must carry on the tradition and recruit the same way. When done correctly, the number of people should not dilute the culture if teams remain small and there is alignment with the overall values, mission and vision. Any recruiting strategy that does not address this is a fail.
- Always be recruiting
In order to hire the best critical first hires, great entrepreneurs already have a team of solid people. They have a personal board of advisors to advisors and Board of Directors committed to the company. They have great relationships with vendors and suppliers and business partners. They were diligent in recruiting the right funding sources for the business. These are all recruiting techniques that feed into the process of recruiting employees. Diligence and deliberate recruiting based on brand values and standards.
Identifying and networking with talent is a regular part of good entrepreneur and CEO jobs. Having solid partners is critical to maintaining the culture required to grow with the company.