Hiring is a Top CEO Priority

ceo priority

For a late stage start-up like Ivy Exec, hiring talent and getting it right is a CEO priority. And, it’s a priority that shouldn’t be delegated – at least early on.

In a start-up’s early days you often fill hiring needs in serendipitous ways – tapping a friend, a friend of a friend, a family member, a classmate. If someone shows up and they bring the right mix of skills/personality, they’re hired. Done. You tend to hire to resolve immediate, monumental needs, but with a very short term outlook.

As your company matures, though, hiring becomes necessarily more calculated, more strategic, because you are inter-connecting a multitude of moving parts.  Your hiring efforts need to pace the expansion of products, services, and customers.

Here’s the approach I use to manage hiring for my company:

  1. Create Your Vision: You have to create the Vision for your company — where will your company be in 12 months?  12 months is a VERY long period in the life of a start-up. In just 12 months, most start-ups undergo dramatic changes. For example, one year Ivy Exec grew from 5 people to 15 in less than 12 months. This kind of change completely redefined the organization and our business needs. Our Vision enabled us to manage the rapid headcount growth without losing focus on critical objectives.
  2. Develop a Plan: Given your Vision, you need to define how you will make it happen – step by step.  As part of this planning process you need to fully assess your company’s current situation, strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities and threats.  Think of it as devising the corporate road map that will take you from home base to your destination, with all the twists and turns inherent therein.  The hiring plan should be an integral component of this Plan.With Ivy Exec it certainly is. Ivy Exec has two successful lines of business and we will soon launch a third line with potential to double our size.  Ivy Exec will be a completely different company in just 12 months time.  And we will need to hire to be successful.
  3. Execute the Plan. This is the most important and the hardest step. Even as a recruiting company, we sometimes don’t recruit enough talent to build our own team and keep pace with our growth.As the CEO you constantly need to recruit. Even if you are not actively bringing that next hire on board, you should always have one eye out for the next hire. If you struggle to find time to manage the entire hiring process, enlist your team’s help to source candidates. But never hand-off the interview and decision process in the early stages.  I don’t think I will be comfortable delegating this critical responsibility until our company has more mass (50-100 people) and more market traction.
  4. Regularly Review Performance vs. Plan: You should review your company’s performance versus plan, at least every 3 months. Start-ups are fluid environments so you will often change critical plan elements mid-plan. When you make these adjustments your hiring priorities will likely change, as well.
  5. Here are questions you should ask throughout the planning process:
  • What skills do we have in house? Where are the gaps?
  • What skills do we need to strengthen our competitive advantage?
  • What kind of bottom line impact will each hire have?  (You should put greater emphasis on hiring for revenue generating positions)
  • How should we prioritize the hires?

In a start-up environment it is often a struggle to balance running the business day to day with building for the future.  In the firefight for survival and growth, some things get neglected. Hiring will often fall lower on the “To Do” List than it should, even with a hiring plan in place.

About the Author

Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, a selective online career network for top performers.