Jul 2013

Seeing What Isn’t There

Appointing a new Board member can be a challenging exercise for any leadership team. Whether it has been precipitated by a resignation or a restructure, growth or decline – bringing someone new into a business-critical role will inevitably have a major impact on the future of that enterprise.

When talk in the Boardroom turns to finding a new CEO or Chairman, it is common for the emphasis to be placed on defining what the incoming individual will need to achieve; usually in strategic or fiscal terms.

But, in order to identify the right person to meet those objectives, the gaze first needs to be cast inward – to the existing leadership team. Its skills, capabilities and strengths need to be evaluated so that the weaknesses can be spotted.

In other words, it is vital to see what is currently missing in order to recognise what needs to be added.

For example:

Functional skills

When recruiting at CEO or Chairman level, most potential candidates will have transcended functional roles and graduated into general leadership posts. It is important, therefore, not to overlook the route they have taken to get to that position. For example, say there is an absence of sales or commercial expertise within the current board: appointing someone whose career has progressed through business development roles would go some way to addressing that gap.

Little black book

Appointing a new member of the leadership team can represent a much more direct route to opening up a network of contacts in a particular market or geographic territory. Looking for someone who is already well connected in relevant sectors and regions can be a real accelerant to growth.

Start-up experience

Early stage ventures benefit significantly from having at least one team member who is well-versed in dealing with investors and preparing for an exit. If this experience does not exist within the founding set-up, seeking out someone with a track record of fundraising and growing start-up businesses may prove invaluable. 

A “name”

For some ventures, bringing someone on board who has a high profile within the industry can be a definite advantage. It can build credibility for the business and open doors that might have otherwise taken a long time to prise ajar. The ‘big name candidate’ will often possess the talent and experience to contribute effectively, but some caution is required to ensure the individual is right for the company and the role they are required to fulfill – not just a marquee signing for its own sake.

What might not be necessary…

There are some requirements that feature in the job specification of many a Board/C-Level appointment that, whilst seemingly sensible, might be unnecessarily limiting the search pool.

It is worth keeping an open mind on the following:

Specific product / service / technology experience

Often first on the list of any ‘ideal candidate’ description – but is it an absolute must? Does the role really require this expertise or could the business benefit from the injection of a fresh perspective?

An executive / full time appointment

There are a variety of ways to address capability gaps like the aforementioned. Could an Interim Manager provide a more suitable solution? Or perhaps a Non-Executive or Advisory Board appointment (for more on advisory boards, click here)

An office presence

Having some flexibility in location can significantly broaden the recruitment options. Is it necessary for this individual to be office based or does the potential exist to work remotely?

Making just one appointment

If the capabilities of the current leadership team need considerable and diverse augmentation, it may be unrealistic to seek one individual with the experience to cover everything.

The most effective Boards combine a blend of skills, knowledge, experience and personalities; by understanding what the gaps look like, it becomes much easier to recognise the right solution to fill them.

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Intramezzo  Report – A board fit for purpose.

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It is undeniable that the global tech industry is booming, with investment continuing to flow into disruptive start-ups around the world.

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