21/10/2013

By Simon Clark, Managing Partner, Fidelity Growth Partners Europe

There comes a point in every entrepreneur’s journey when it is critical to get the right team in place, doing the right things. And it’s easier said than done. From learning to relinquish control, to tempting proven superstars to take a risk and buy into the dream, finding and securing the right talent to help boost your growth is a delicate but critical job.

Many entrepreneurs talk of the unparalleled excitement that comes with starting and growing a business. But at some point the energy, knowledge and passion that have ensured the business’ success to date will no longer be enough to help it get to the next level.

It’s a fine balance to tread. High-growth businesses need people who can bring structure, process and organization. They need people with experience building a product or service that scales. But critically, they also need the passion, energy and enthusiasm that will enhance the original business idea, without dampening the drive of all the committed people who are likely to have been with the business from the start.

As your business grows, so do the roles required to make the organization work. Structures for a ten person company will start to creak under the strain of a 30 person company. And at ten times the size they will simply be un-useable.
I see a lot of businesses going for growth – many have learned the hard way that attracting talent needs to be the top priority. Others have done it very successfully and it has been key to their achievements. Reflecting on what I’ve learned both from the businesses we invest in, and the many other entrepreneurs I meet each day, I think it comes down to a few key things:

1. Look for people who know more than you do
It’s fair to say that no one will know more about your business than you, but there are plenty of people who will be absolute experts in your market, your technology, financial structures, HR issues and the list goes on. Once you have defined the areas that are critical for your growth, look for proven experts in these areas. You want people with more experience or knowledge than you.

2. Once you’ve hired them, trust them to do the job
A successful entrepreneur has usually been successful precisely because they have their finger on the pulse of every single area of the business. But growth also means letting go. It means finding the best people and then believing in them to get the job done.

3. Never stop looking
The best people come along when you are least likely to need them. Keep your eyes open, always, and if a superstar crosses your path, seize the opportunity to consider having them join you. Talent is hard to find…so when you see it, you must act fast. That said, don’t forget to look at the people you have. There might be opportunities to shift people into new roles as you develop, that previously didn’t exist.

4. Reward and recognition
If finding exceptional talent is a so much of a challenge, keeping talented people must involve a deliberate and well thought-through approach. Look after your best people financially, but remember that what talented people like most is an opportunity to shine. Give them challenging things to do and reward them when they succeed.

5. Hire for culture
Culture boils down to ‘the way things are done around here’…and nothing helps a business succeed more than a team (of any size) that is completely aligned and in pursuit of a common goal. Even if it’s not written down anywhere, a company will live by a set of values. Ensuring that you hire in line with these values at the outset means that when challenges arise – as they inevitably will – the foundation for decision-making will be strong. Importantly, hiring people who are a good cultural fit means that when they challenge you, as they should, it will always be in the best interests of the business as a whole.

Scaling a business isn’t easy. It can be an unpredictable and often uncomfortable rollercoaster ride. But with the right team in place, the challenges are all surmountable and sometimes, turn out to provide some of the greatest opportunities.

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