There is a Chinese curse—“may you live in interesting times.” We are in interesting times and critical to thriving in them requires clear-headed thinking about what to do about many aspects of your business, and especially what to do about your management team. Solving that equation will involve replacing some team members with new folks better positioned to help the company survive and grow.

Hiring senior management starts with figuring out what you need and why you need it. Figuring out what you need can be derived from the business plan reflecting the current business climate and operating restrictions.

The Key Elements of Any Plan

1. The market the company serves—its size and geographic range, and how the current business climate has changed it.

2. The problem the company solves—its size, severity, etc.

3. The solution the company provides—product and/or service.

4. The purchasing process—who has the budget, who is the sponsor, who else is in the decision loop and how long is the purchasing process from lead qualification to closing and payment?

5. How the company works:

• How the company does what it does
• How the company creates demand for what it does
• How the company will scale what it does

6. Competition—analysis of competitors, comparisons, and competitive advantages

7. Traction.

8. Business model—product business, service business, recurring revenue business, etc.

9. Financial projections.

10. Use of available or acquirable capital.

11. Team, advisors, and board of directors—including experience, titles, and roles.


Top Considerations for Recruiting the Right People

  1. Intelligence—Intellectual curiosity is a key indicator of intelligence. It’s also one of the best predictors of success.
    • Many of history’s great minds share this trait, from artists to scientists to inventors.
    • One way to test for intelligence is to determine if a person knows something interesting that given their background and education they should not know.
    • I have said this a number of times. It has been proven time and time again that highly intelligent people are as much as 10 times more productive than the “average” person.


  1. Credentials—many things can be considered there but there are a few that are of primary concern:
    • Demonstrated success in moving a company through what your company will be experiencing in the next critical period of time.
    • Experienced in one or more companies that have a deserved reputation for excellent management performance.
    • Some proven experience is companies of a similar size to yours. Too often persons with all of their career shaping experience in larger companies bring ways of doing things that do not fit well in smaller companies.
    • Having proven skills in solving the specific issues of interest to your company currently.
  2. Culture fit—find people with shared beliefs and behaviors about how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions and with each other.
  3. Shared vision—it is essential the founders and new executives have a shared vision of where the company is going and how it is going to get there. The business plan details are a starting point for determining if visions align, but founders must be able to convince themselves that the whole team will move together when the business plan is changed by external events. Mike Tyson entered each fight with a plan, which lasted until the first punch landed.
  4. Broad acceptance—any added executive should have been vetted by the broadest set of current employees possible, and the opinions of the interviewees should be important input to the hiring decision. You want a job at Google; easy to do after surviving a couple dozen interviews. Broad acceptance helps guarantee the needed bonding between current and new employees.
  5. Demonstrated interest in the business—management candidates should be put through a drill that measures their grasp of the company and its history, and how their approach to doing their job will enhance the company’s likelihood of success.
  6. Alignment—involves the new contributor’s commitment to creating the communications needed to keep everyone moving in the intended direction.
  7. Trust—it is essential that top management’s “gut instincts” supports the notion that a new hire can be trusted and testing that trait with a person’s previous business associates is an important due diligence item.

If building a company was easy, everyone would do it. With a shrinking globe and much uncertainty about our near term future, getting the right team is critical to success.

John Grillos
Connect with me on LinkedIn

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