It's been exactly eight years since we launched this software company. Now that we're clocking in at just under 150 full-time employees, it has become plainly obvious that our senior leadership team is missing a critical seat on the org chart.

We need to hire a VP of People.

I don't mean a VP of Human Resources.  This role is much more than the administration of compliance programs, performance reviews and recruiting processes. We need a seasoned leader who has what it takes to turn our human capital strategy into a source of long-term competitive advantage, because without it we're just another technology vendor. 

Our senior team came to the conclusion that it was time to make this hire based on three important observations. Many small businesses struggle with these issues, so these may seem familiar to you, too:

1. We're missing our hiring targets.

A few weeks back, our senior team focused time on an intense discussion about the reasons we weren't consistently hitting our sales targets. The culprit? We simply didn't have enough quota coverage. Even if everyone performed to expectation, there was a chance we could still miss plan.

We needed more sales resources to even give ourselves the chance of delivering the desired results. Having an experienced leader in place to partner with our recruiting team and linking our recruiting pipeline to our operating plan would have alerted us to the risks to the plan we faced due to a slowdown in hiring activity.

The rest of the team was so busy focusing on delivering their plan that together we missed this obvious issue. We won't be doing that again.

2. We aren't doing enough to nurture future leaders.

To continue scaling this business, we'll need a cadre of mid-level leaders ready to step in when new opportunities emerge.  Those leaders won't be properly developed if we're not investing time and effort into training and professional growth for our highest-potential team members.

When we were in our startup phase, "trial by fire" was a perfectly fine way to get people the exposure they needed to learn and grow. In fact, this controlled chaos was a big reason why our earliest team members decided to work here in the first place: get in on the ground floor, survive the gauntlet and move up fast.

We're not that company anymore and we need formal programs in place to get people ready for what we need them to become: exceptional business leaders. 

3. Scaling our company culture is getting more difficult.

Each year, approximately 50 percent of our current employee base has been with us less than 12 months. At 150 people, that means we've onboarded and trained 75 new team members. As the business grows, this critical business function will be strained with an ever-increasing demand.

Without someone in place to ensure that we're teaching our new team members how we do business, imparting on them our company's core values, and navigating increasing organizational complexity, we're going to make self-inflicted mistakes.

These mistakes are avoidable and we're going to get ahead of them, starting now. You should, too.

Are you concerned about any of these looming challenges for your people operations? 

Published on: Mar 1, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.