Should You Hire For Today Or For Future Growth?

Should You Hire For Today Or For Future Growth?

When launching a search, we are often asked to look at "up-and-coming" leaders as well as "established" leaders. When doing this, we typically present 1-2 top-tier candidates from each profile at the beginning of the search, which inevitably brings us quickly into a discussion about whether the company should hire for where the business is today versus where the company intends to be in a few years.

It is not an easy answer, as established c-suite talent, with a proven track record, is a very attractive hire. This hire typically costs more though and they usually have a strong point of view on how to scale a company, and the team they need to hire for success. An up-and-comer, who is a VP or SVP ready to move into the c-suite, is usually the number two person and is hungry to make their mark. They are the ones who have been closer to the front lines and will generally be more of the scrappy hire. The challenge is, they were not the ones who crafted the initial GTM strategy and led the teams, at the highest level of leadership, through growth. There can be risk in hiring the up-and-comer but the reward can be exponential.

My rule of thumb guidance to CEOs is to have them ask themselves these two questions:

  1. What will your business need in the next two years?
  2. What bandwidth do you have for deep mentoring?

The first question, what will your business need in the next two years, is critical when making the decision to hire for now or for the future. You cannot think past 24 months when hiring as the dynamics of business change too often. If your business is not truly ready for the established c-suite leader, or won’t be in two years, you absolutely cannot get wooed by the proven leader who may no longer be as scrappy as the business requires. The risk in hiring a leader that the business is not ready for is far too expensive if you consider the compensation requirements, the compensation of the team they will likely want to hire, and the revenue cost if they do not produce quickly.

The second question about bandwidth is critical when considering the hire of an up-and-comer. Up-and-comers have likely never sat in a boardroom. They typically need more face time with you and thrive with both constructive and positive feedback. Your mentorship of this person will become an important part of their success and if you don’t have the time to commit to it, you will need to strongly consider where it will come from. For an up-and-comer to elevate properly, thrive in their position and deliver on the needs of the business, great mentorship can be the key to everyone's success.

Of course, I generalize in describing the two profiles above and every person is different, which is what makes finding a great match for each unique company, the magic of recruiting. You certainly can find an established leader who is also scrappy and certainly there are up-and-comers who don’t need more hands-on mentorship. The real message though is to consider what your business needs in the next 24-30 months and to hire for that. Your business will change and your leadership team can change with it. Your goal right now should be to hire for what you need to deliver on and to build a team around you that can overachieve on those metrics.