“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
Hiring Someone to Grow Your Business:
The 7 Personality Traits of a Superstar Entrepreneurial CEO
So, you want to hire someone to run your business?
Maybe you’re nearing retirement. Or maybe the person running it now is doing a disappointing job.
In my career, I’ve been in this position maybe a hundred times. In fact, I’m waist-deep in it again right now – with three companies simultaneously, with annual revenues ranging from $15 million to $100 million.
It’s not easy.
So much is at stake.
So how do you find the right person? What qualities should you look for in this all-important search?
This is what you will hear from an executive placement expert: “You need someone with experience… someone with good communication skills… someone that can build strong teams. But most important, you need a big thinker – a visionary and a risk taker.”
When I was young, I was vulnerable to that sort of business-school bullshit. It may be appropriate for a billion-dollar business. But if you have a $10 million or $100 million business, “qualifications” like that won’t help you at all.
Running an entrepreneurial business is very different from running a mature one. A mature business needs to be managed. An entrepreneurial business needs to be grown.
In past essays, I’ve explained my theory of “growers” and “tenders.” Tenders have a talent for solving problems and making a business run smoothly. Growers have a talent for growing revenues and profits.
To run your entrepreneurial business, you need a grower – a superstar with the following qualities:
- He’s competitive:He doesn’t hate losing… but he loves winning.
- She’s Pareto-focused: She understands her priorities and follows the 80/20 principle in pursuing her objectives.
- He’s a work horse: If he has to, he will outwork anyone else in the company. It doesn’t matter if it takes 18 hours a day.
- She’s knowledgeable: She understands the business inside and out – an understanding that comes from an interest in figuring out how things work. She wants to know what is going on and why.
- He’s fearless: He’s not afraid to hurt feelings. He’s not afraid to fire people or to tell them when he thinks they have erred.
- She’s open-minded: She’s open to new ideas, but doesn’t accept ideas that don’t make sense to her.
- He’s strategically lazy: He always wants to be the smartest person in the room (and the most powerful) but he’s wise enough to understand that if he puts himself in charge of everything he will never achieve anything beyond what he, as one person, can do. Plus, he doesn’t want to work that hard. So he hires the most talented people he can find and gives them the freedom to do what they do best.
So why am I not telling you that you need a “visionary” and a “risk taker”?
When it comes growing an entrepreneurial business, I can’t think of any quality that matters less than vision.
When you are growing a start-up company, you have no idea how things will develop and what challenges you will face. That’s because markets are dynamic and problems are specific. You can’t vision your company into success. You have to react and respond, test and retest, try and fail until the future of the business makes itself clear.
The best entrepreneurial leaders (i.e., growers) don’t concern themselves with what the business will become in 7 to 10 years. They focus on this year and this month and this week. Long-term for a grower is, at best, two to three years.
As for risk takers…
That entrepreneurs (and the CEOs that run entrepreneurial companies) must be risk takers may be a bromide that is even more common than visionary. I think it is equally untrue.
I would not hire anyone to run any aspect of my business (except perhaps a sales team) that I would judge as a risk taker. There is so much inherent risk in building any business. The challenge is to make progress without losing all your time, money, and patience – and that requires the ability to make smart, low-risk, high-growth decisions.
So if you are shopping for a CEO, look for the abovementioned 7 traits… and steer clear of risk takers and visionaries.
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