Jul 26 2012

The Best Place to Work, Part 1: Surround yourself with the best and brightest

First in my series of posts around creating the best place to work  is to Surround yourself with the best and brightest.  This one is simple.  Build the best team you can possibly build…as you need it.

As a founder, you may be the best person at doing everything in your company, especially if you are a technical founder.  But as my long-time Board member at Return Path Greg Sands always says, when the organism grows, cells start to specialize.  Eventually, you need a liver and a brain.  Just like companies need a head of sales and a CFO (not to imply that Anita likes the occasional cocktail or that Jack likes math – turns out both like both).

How does this come into play as a CEO?

-Don’t be afraid to hire people better than you at their specialty – older, wiser, more experienced, more expensive

– Check references carefully – don’t get suckered in by resume or rolodex – some successful big company people don’t actually know how to do work or build a business, so you have to dig and find back-channel references

– Don’t overhire before you’re ready, but especially as a start-up, better to hire 3 months before you need the position, not 6 months too late

-Remember that you are the CEO.  Even if you hire very experienced people in specific roles, you have the best global view of everything going on in the company.  And you need to pay attention to people on your team and actively manage them, even experts who are older or wiser than you are

Surrounding yourself with the best and brightest can be daunting and even threatening to some CEOs.  But you have to do it to grow your business.  And you have to keep doing it as you keep growing your business (and your staff has to do the same!).