EXECUTIVE TEAM ALIGNMENT
A special Build supplement in the November 2013 issue of Inc. magazine.
When Build asked executives at fast-growth companies to identify the factors that have propelled their organizations over the last decade, the top two answer were not surprising: “launching a hot new product or service” (57 percent) and success with “branding or market position.”
But coming in a close third was “a big change in senior leadership,” at 42 percent (multiple answers were permitted).
We wanted to learn more about the connection between the injection of new talent and a company’s growth, so we reached out to three of the respondents for more detail: Dan Pickett, Nick Marsh, and Elaine Osgood — the CEOs at Nfrastructure, Chop’t Creative Salad Company, and Atlas Travel, respectively.
When to add
“The biggest challenge of high-growth companies is that there is no way your management team of yesterday is your management team of tomorrow.”
— Nick Marsh, Chop’t Creative Salad Company
At all three companies, growth preceded the senior management changes deemed necessary for achieving more growth. In Nfrastructure’s case, a massive restructuring took place when the company reached about $20 million in revenue and set its sights on $50 million. Atlas was also already growing when it added common C-level positions, including a COO and a CFO. Meanwhile, Chop’t adds to its top team as it opens new restaurants.
Who to add
“My philosophy has always been to hire the best talent in the business and then get out of their way so that they can do what they do best.”
— Elaine Osgood, Atlas Travel
Osgood draws a distinction between “evolving and simply growing,” with the former requiring far more care. Different stages in a company’s growth require different types of hires. When Chop’t experienced its first major growth surge, Marsh placed a premium on cultural consistency and promoted two middle managers into vice president roles. Later, when hiring for two new senior level positions, he felt the company would be best served by newcomers with outside perspectives.
How to add
“The change [in top management] is being made for a reason, and for it to work that reason must be made clear to all stakeholders.”
— Dan Pickett, Nfrastructure
Pickett (@dtpickett3), as an “outsider CEO,” says one of the most important things a founder can do for a new executive early on is to introduce them to key customers and clients, opening the door for future one-to-one conversations without the founder. And, he says, new executives should never hear about a founder nixing a C-suite decision that was thought to be final. Those decisions, after all, are why you brought on the execs in the first place.
Founders would be forgiven if they were startled by the idea of a C-suite shakeup as a driver of success, but they might be comforted to know that only one company we surveyed directly mentioned the ouster of its founder as playing such a role. (That company asked not to be identified.) Almost 92 percent of the companies we surveyed, in fact, say a founder remains active in the business.