Our latest report, A Board Fit For Purpose, revealed that a critical factor in attracting prospective investors to exciting start-ups is a board of high-calibre executives. In particular, high-growth organisations are increasingly having to demonstrate that they have leaders who will be able to take the business from zero to £1 million, and beyond.
That said, the study also found that according to 81% of respondents, finding talent is the biggest barrier to growth in portfolio companies, and we are seeing many entrepreneurs struggle to assemble and manage their boards. This is by no means surprising, given the pressures and time constraints of overseeing a business, but as the make-up of a board means the difference between success and failure), finessing the top team must be a priority moving forward.
It also begs the question: what does make a £100 million leader? We work with a wide range of high-growth companies to help them achieve their ambitions, through great people and so we have pulled together a few of the key leadership attributes that will ultimately help to scale a business:
- A heavy hitter – Though hard to do, the ideal tactic for many is to bring in a heavy hitter at an early stage – often helping a company reach its targets quickly. From our experience, these individuals are well equipped with the necessary skills, and skills threshold, to enable them to go further with the business.
- A networker – It goes without saying that for any small business, networking can play a key part in organisational success. An individual who has great industry contacts and who is able to get out and talk about your brand and vision to these individuals will do wonders for raising your profile, especially amongst investors.
- A story seller – The ability to sell the story, so that it is both credible and compelling to employees, the board and investors alike is also very important. After all, how can you expect a firm to invest in your idea if you aren’t able to articulate its potential yourself?
- A strong track record – Track record is often a vital part of the search when it comes to finding and appointing C-suite and Board-level talent. If they have previously held a similar position then it minimises the risk for investors in hiring them. However, such individuals, the “serial CEOs”, are rare and not every company is able to secure someone who is proven in this regard.
- A rising star – While CEOs with a great CV of growing businesses can be a good addition, being open-minded about other individuals can also pay off. For example, appointing someone who is a rising star with the hunger and drive to make a major impact can prove to be a highly effective hire – especially if the rest of the leadership team is balanced enough to cover any gaps in experience or knowledge.
Once you understand the type of person you need to lead your business going forward, the next step is figuring out how you can find this individual. Here are some of our recommendations:
Identify what you need now and in the future
The first step to identifying the right talent is to really drill down into what the business needs and, more importantly, will need going forward. Creating a talent strategy which identifies potential skills gaps, the experience you will need in the future, and aligning this with the business objectives is key and can immediately highlight which roles need to be appointed, developed or replaced.
Find out where those candidates are currently
The next stage is to think a bit more carefully about the ideal candidate: what they’re doing now, what experience they might have, what companies they may have worked with in the past and so on. That said, it’s important to maintain an open-mind in regards to workforce planning. Once the ideal candidate profile has been drawn up, go through the key criteria and ask yourself/the other stakeholders, why each item is important? It will help finesse the specification and highlight areas of experience where you can afford to compromise, ultimately opening up more options.
The end result?
If the UK hopes to find the next tech unicorn or global giant, it must become widespread knowledge that a strong leadership team plays a very important part in this. In any tech cluster, the entrepreneurial talent pool will be limited – and each possesses unique strengths and challenges. The quicker organisations identify the type of ‘£100 million leader’ they need, including attributes and experience, the quicker they can expect to reach the next stage of business growth.