One of the key things about growing companies at a fast rate is you have to have the talent to do this. But talent comes in all forms, and when you’re looking at your leadership team, it is absolutely essential that you have a really strong process for recruiting.
How do you quickly find the talent you need to grow your company?
It’s not when you need someone that you start recruiting. In fact, it’s recruiting all the way along so that you have a virtual bench available to you when you need it, particularly at the senior levels, I find that you look for skills right. I mean you go and recruit, and you say hey do I have a CTO with this kind of skillset? Or do I have a chief marketing officer that can do inbound marketing, not just outbound marketing?
Well guess what? Although most companies try and hire by skills, they typically don’t keep people by skills. So I always look for fit, and will, and skill, and ceiling. And those are the four things that matter to me the most. Typically people that at the senior levels, that come in are highly referred. I always look for them, I spend time on them, I spend a fair portion, material portion of my week, my month, and my quarter constantly interviewing and constantly meeting people, because at the end of the day when you’re building a scaling company, and talent is really where everything starts and ends, your senior team ends up representing who the organisation is.
What they say, what they do, how they act, the values that they basically carry with them, whether they have a high ceiling or they have just sort of a limited ceiling, these are all the things that affect the company’s ceiling, the company’s growth, the company’s opportunity. So that is probably that little hidden secret beyond sales, beyond engineering, beyond products, it’s about your people.
What key processes do you need in place to grow to the next stage?
Companies go through stages of growth, and at each stage, you’re going to need different points of focus in order to get past that stage. The thing that’s most common from a startup right through to growth, and right through to scale, and right through to becoming a global type company is you have to be aware of your runway at all times. So starting from there as your baseline, then I would say if you’re in a startup mode, of course you need to be focused on getting your product right.
Getting your product right isn’t just a matter of inventing it in a back room, it’s a matter of ensuring that it actually matters to customers that want to buy this thing. It matters to partners that want to represent it. So these are the things you have to solve at the start up stage, and the reason you have to solve them is because in a high growth company, you’re going to need working capital, you’re going to need access to cash. Typically, it’s going to come from your friends and family, and if you don’t succeed, it’s friends, family, and fools.
So, if you’re going to get to venture, you have to actually produce the kinds of metrics, and the kinds of traction with customers that will drive the interest from a venture investor, or an angel investor to put money into your enterprise. If you’re fortunate enough to get past that start up stage, then you’re now looking at one in 250 companies ever get from start up to I would say a growth stage, somewhere between 1 million to 10 million in terms of total net revenue, 70 people or so.
Now you’re managing people that manage people. So you have to now be concerned about leadership, and you have to be concerned about recruiting, and you have to be concerned about systems, by which you manage these companies. If you get past that stage, now you’re into one in 1,500 companies, only one in 1,500 companies ever get to somewhere between 30 to $50 million growing 50% per year. Now you’re into a completely different set of competencies that you have to have in your company.
So, although companies going through the product, market, fit, sales, scale, recruiting, they all have these standard processes to go through, don’t forget about the business of the business, because each of these stages requires a different set of business competencies for you to not just survive, but to thrive. And you have to thrive because you’re going to be sucking capital at all times. So if you can’t prove that you have a bridge to a future, as opposed to a bridge to nowhere, nobody’s going to fund this thing. And if you can’t fund it, you don’t have a high growth company on your hands.
One of the key aspects of growing a company is your talent. Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS Discovery District, offers his advice when it comes to building a high-growth team.