How to bring in an outsider to drive business growth

Sylvia Pennington

You’re a start-up founder or part of a tight team that’s poured your collective sweat and toil into turning a bright idea into a successful venture. Now you’re starting to wonder whether it’s time to draft in some external talent to help drive your business’ growth to the next level.

So what’re the keys to introducing an outsider who’ll strengthen rather than spoil the dynamic of your executive suite?

Picking your moment, says Ivan Lim, the co-founder of online furniture merchant Brosa, which has quadrupled its headcount to 30 in the past two years.

“I think the right time to do it is when you need help,” Lim says.

“As an entrepreneur, you’re going to reach a point in time where you don’t know the answer and that’s when you need to find someone who’s already been there, or who’s had more experience in that area.”

Being crystal clear about your new hire’s remit, whether it’s doubling sales, cracking a new market or getting the firm’s finances in order is vital according to Rohan Workman, the director of the Melbourne Accelerator Program, who’s mentored a slew of start-up founders.

As an entrepreneur, you’re going to reach a point in time where you don’t know the answer and that’s when you need to find someone who’s already been there, or who’s had more experience in that area.

Know what you want them to do and put in place some key performance indicators so you – and they – can gauge how well they’re doing it, Workman says.

Engaging someone to complete a discrete project or assignment can be a low cost, no strings way of assessing their form before taking them on full-time.

“We’ve trialled people out this way to see if they can walk the talk,” Lim says.

“It can be a good means of working out whether someone will have genuine interest in, and passion for, the business – or whether they’re just looking for a job.

“Ideally you want someone with experience but who’s also willing to learn, not to come in and already believe they know it all.”

Just as importantly you’ll have the opportunity to see how well they gel with the corporate culture you’ve evolved – whether it’s looking the part for client meetings or participating in the office ping pong tournament with gusto, not skulking in the stationary cupboard.

Pay peanuts, get monkeys as the old adage puts it – so it’s also important you have enough salted away to pay someone who’s worth their salt, not a third rater whose input is less than impressive.

“An outside executive can cost a lot of money and you need to be able to afford them,” Workman says.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

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