One of the responsibilities of a board of Executives, or a founder is to recognise when the time is right to hire a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) from outside the company. After a successful start-up enjoys an initial burst of growth, the founder members often need to take a step back and see the need for someone who’s an expert navigator of the complicated world of business, not just a tightly focussed specialist in their particular product or service.
An experienced CEO can help you to avoid some of the mistakes that can snuff out a start-up early in their life, so it’s well worth taking the time to find someone with the experience and skills you need to help your new business go the distance.
One of the things your company will have to over the months and years (and hopefully decades!) of its life is change. As it encounters challenges, new resources and new ways of working change is inevitable, and for those who have been in there since Day One, change is difficult. When you bring in a CEO, you need someone who’s not just comfortable with change but an enthusiastic advocate for it. Look for someone who doesn’t just ‘agree’ with changes but who is the first to embrace them, and inspires others to rise up and seize them as an opportunity, not shrink from them.
The dual banes of decision making in a fast-moving industry are complacency and false urgency. They’re two sides of a coin, and both represent a reluctance to really grapple with the key issues facing your business. You need someone who’s not going to avoid taking difficult decisions because they refuse to see threats to your position, but it’s equally poisonous to rush into big changes simply for the sake of doing something, to satisfy a false sense of drama and urgency.
Leadership is one of the most important qualities you need in a CEO. If they aren’t a good leader, it’s going to be difficult for them to make an impact regardless of how else they may be qualified for the role.
Excellent interpersonal skills are a must: a good leader doesn’t just issue orders. They have to know how to appeal to all the different people they’re dealing with, and win their hearts and minds not simply rely on authority.
If you screen for these qualities, as well as a track record of success you’ll find not just a good CEO but the right CEO.