Hiring

4 Rules for Hiring Executive Talent: Janet Bannister knows how to recruit your C-suite

You need more great leaders to make your startup thrive. Here’s how to set yourself up for executive hiring success.
Jul 6th, 2019  |  Janet Bannister
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Never underestimate your team. This holds true for businesses of all shapes and sizes. But as a startup, this idea is profoundly important. A startup is built on the backs of a few visionary leaders, but as it grows, its success is determined by the strength and unity of its team. Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures, knows this very well.

As your business grows, Janet notes, “you as a CEO will need to shift from doing things yourself to getting things done through other people.” That can be difficult for some CEOs and managers to do, because they have to take a step back and allow others to take the driver's seat. But if they can embrace their new roles and “leverage great people who are motivated, trained and focused” to accomplish company tasks, they'll put their business in a great position to scale effectively. 

The trick is to find executive talent you can trust to manage the important aspects of your business. Speaking to founders and entrepreneurs, Janet explains that finding that C-suite talent requires you to make a plan, think proactively, leverage the expertise of mentors, and sell your vision and values.

Have a Plan

The first thing founders should do when looking for executive talent is “make a hiring plan for the next 12 months.” This plan should include things like the “metrics you need to hit, how fast you plan to grow and what leaders you need to achieve those goals.”

Founders need to be aware that this plan will look different depending on where they are in their business lifecycle. For example, in the earliest stages of building a business, “you need people who get stuff done,” but as you continue to grow, you'll need people who can help you “put processes in place.” And once you've established those processes, your next stage of growth will need to include people who will “follow the processes.”

“Some people on your team will be able to work in all three stages,” says Janet. “They'll evolve with the business and they'll like it. But other people won't be able to make that transition. So it's important for founders to know what stage they're in and make sure their plan involves hiring the executive talent that can operate well in that environment.”

“Some people on your team will be able to work in all three stages,” says Janet. “They'll evolve with the business and they'll like it. But other people won't be able to make that transition. So it's important for founders to know what stage they're in and make sure their plan involves hiring the executive talent that can operate well in that environment.”

Think Proactively

Hiring executive talent is not a one time thing, and it certainly doesn't happen overnight. That's why it's important for founders to constantly be thinking ahead.

“Typically, it takes at least three months to hire somebody,” says Janet. “So you need to always be thinking about what you're looking for next—be it a Sales Director, CFO, or another C-suite executive.” 

Think about it this way: you may not have an open position for a sales executive now, but as your business grows, that will change. Waiting to think about that position until you need to fill it can force you to hire a candidate that isn't well-suited for the position—or to take on the role yourself, while you wait to find the right talent.

On the flip side, planning ahead and proactively looking for the executive talent you'll need in the future enables you to tap into it when it emerges. 

Leverage the Expertise of Mentors 

While reviewing resumes and job applications can get you closer to the right executive talent, there is an important human element to hiring, as well. Interviewing and evaluating hires in-action both contribute to the overall picture of the candidate. 

However, since you can't be an expert on every role your company needs to fill, it's important to tap into your network to find mentors who can help you evaluate and interview the talent you're considering. As Janet explains:

“It can be tricky if, for example, you and your co-founders aren’t overly technical, and you're trying to hire technical people. In these cases, I would suggest you reach out to mentors and get their feedback on your new hires. Getting that third party input to make sure your hires are a good fit for your company is invaluable. And then, if it turns out they're not a good fit—the sooner you find out about it the better.”

“It can be tricky if, for example, you and your co-founders aren’t overly technical, and you're trying to hire technical people. In these cases, I would suggest you reach out to mentors and get their feedback on your new hires. Getting that third party input to make sure your hires are a good fit for your company is invaluable. And then, if it turns out they're not a good fit—the sooner you find out about it the better.”

While a mentor is best suited to help you see if a candidate is qualified for a certain position at your company, they can also help you evaluate the candidate's soft skills. 

“This time, let's say you're hiring an enterprise salesperson,” says Janet, “but you don't know anything about enterprise sales, so you bring on someone from your mentor group—who was an enterprise salesperson—to evaluate your new hires, and give you feedback on them. And let's say they find that the candidate is not as qualified as they should be—they just aren't hitting the objectives they need to. The question then is how do they react when they don't hit those objectives? Do they come to you proactively and say: ‘hey, I know we said we're going to do X, but we've hit these issues, and we're not going to achieve X. So instead, we're going to do Y, and I am going to do X, Y, and Z to make it happen.’ Or do they just throw up their hands and quit? Those are some of the qualitative factors your mentors help you scope out.”

Sell Your Mission, Vision, and Values

One of the biggest obstacles founders face in hiring on quality executive talent is helping potential hires see the value of working for your company when they have more secure, higher-paying options.

Since you're a startup, you'll probably need to pay your executive talent “less than market value and offer them equity,” says Janet. If that's the case, it becomes really important to sell them on the mission, vision, and values of your company. It makes a huge impact on their willingness to “value your equity and potentially give up a higher-paying, more secure job, in order to be part of your team.” 

Janet Bannister
Janet Bannister is a Partner at Real Ventures.
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