When hiring a new employee, you start by screening candidates to gauge how they will perform in the role, fit in with the team, and develop over time. You do this knowing that, if any issues come up down the line, training and performance management should resolve any problems for a good employee while a bad hire will eventually have to be let go or have a negative impact on the rest of your team. But what happens when the job at hand involves choosing someone else to serve as the boss?
If you're even considering taking this step, it means that your business is heading in the right direction! What's more, you understand that having the skills to get the business to where it is now doesn't mean that you have the skills required to run a larger organization.
That being said, hiring the right person to be your boss is awfully important for you personally. If you don't find the right fit, you could find yourself at the other end of the performance management scenario and risk losing some control over your company. If you hire someone and end up letting them go, their seniority will mean guaranteed ripples through the organization on their departure.
At my company Ultra Mobile, it took us three years to go from a handful of people building something with seed capital to a hundred people running a $100 million revenue business. My four founders and I had been in business together for 8 years by this stage, and our previous companies had been more like lifestyle businesses. We were able to run them with a very small team, handling most of it between ourselves, and were able to walk away with a sizable profit.
Recognize Your Limitations
This model worked for us because we are scrappy by nature and knew how to turn an idea into a profitable business. However, we hadn't needed to grow the team much or significantly grow our operations. Ultra was a completely different type of operation and we knew we needed to scale fast.
We grew extremely fast, ranking number #1 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in 2015. Friction developed within the team as we started bringing on really experienced, smart people who were used to running things themselves because we weren't used to delegating decision-making!
We also weren't used to managing large teams or a large customer base, and we didn't know how to provide the corporate infrastructure (HR, management, processes) required to run a larger business in a consistent way. We got to a point where we knew the company had grown so much that we were now out of our depths and needed an expert in running a large, growing business.
Four years in (which was one year ago), we decided to hire externally and bring in a seasoned leader to professionalize our organization and allow us to scale more gracefully. We were no longer a start-up but a scale-up. This not only was good for optimizing the business, but also freed me and my partners up to do what we do best: innovating, finding new revenue streams, building new partnerships, and seizing on new opportunities.
Keep Doing What You Do Best
We brought in Tyler Leshney as President to work alongside me and serve as the person to whom the other founders now reported. Although his background was not in telecommunications, he was an expert in business development, operations, people management and leadership. He came from the corporate world, starting out in investment banking after graduating from Harvard.
Most importantly, he had the ability to fit right in with the very different personalities of our founding team. He had no problem with maintaining a strong point of view while considering all of our opinions.
In this past year, this hire and the resulting team members he has brought in, has enabled us to start looking more like a venture builder. We've built up internal competencies that we now realize can be leveraged outside of Ultra with just incremental effort. We've been able to incubate a number of new businesses and turn these into additional revenue streams.
Our business continues to grow upwards as well as sideways, opening up new opportunities for everyone in the organization. My only regret is not having recognized sooner that a new boss was what we needed.