What should you look for in a new CEO? Colleen Aylward, founder of high-tech recruiting-and-placement firm Devon James Associates Inc., shares what her clients typically look for.
Finding the perfect CEO to fill your shoes takes more than an evaluation of your own role. It takes an honest assessment of what you haven't brought to the job.
"Most of our clients want in their replacement CEO a person who has every wonderful quality in the book for funding and growth, but who can also overcome all of the mistakes they've made as founding CEOs," says Colleen Aylward, founder and president of Devon James Associates Inc., a Seattle-based high-tech recruiting-and-placement firm. The list of skills and qualities that founders are looking for in a second CEO sometimes look like a superhero list, but in reality a second CEO does need many of these abilities to see a business to the next level.
The following list is a pretty typical founding CEO's wish list, based on Aylward's experience with her clients. Use it to evaluate what you might need in a CEO candidate.
The replacement, or second, CEO:
Has earned an MBA and actually used it in his/her recent successes.
Has taken a company public (especially after the terrorist attacks on September 11, after which it became much harder to take companies public).
Has several first-name-basis venture capitalists in his/her social group.
Has started a company on his/her own.
Has an outstanding list of successes -- for both funding and growth -- under his/her belt.
Is a recognized business leader.
Has knowledge of and experience in the company's particular core business and preferably hails from a direct competitor.
Has successfully played in the international marketing-and-distribution arena.
Understands the deeper side of operations on a day-to-day basis.
Has a story that plays well with investors, showing them that he/she has learned from mistakes and knows about the competition, laws, and future issues that are normally not present in start-ups, but that are key to taking the business to the next level (for example, outsourcing, customer service, manufacturing, taking on debt capital, and the like).
Has a keen sense of the future for the business and has strategies for taking it there.
Possesses outstanding communication skills and has the presence and charisma that will be an asset in funding, press, board, and internal meetings. (In other words, he/she listens to others' opinions, is easy to approach, and can charm vendors, employees, shareholders, partners, and creditors alike).
Has a Rolodex of new revenue sources, press contacts, and new customers that will benefit the company.
Promises undying devotion to stockholder value and professes to employees that they are the company's most important assets -- and actually means it.