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Empowering the Original Team or Bringing in New Blood?

Berna Aksoy
by Berna Aksoy

Building a leadership team is a critical aspect of growing a startup. As the company progresses from pre-seed to Series A, B, C, and beyond, it is essential to navigating the C-suite leadership strategy to ensure healthy organizational growth. One of the most crucial decisions that startup founders face as their company grows is whether to invest in their existing leadership team or bring in new C-suite executives to lead the organization. While early joiners may have been instrumental in the company's initial success, the current and upcoming needs of the growing organization may require new skills and experience that the current team may not possess.

This dilemma requires a delicate balance between promoting from within to
maintain company culture and hiring external executives to bring fresh perspectives and expertise.
However, bringing in external talent to lead a legacy team requires delicate handling to prevent alienating the original team. Founders must navigate this decision carefully to avoid alienating the original team and ensure healthy organizational growth. 

Assess Your Current Leadership Team’s Eligibility from Early Joiners  

Before bringing in new leaders from outside the organization, founders should evaluate their existing team to identify any skill gaps that need to be filled. It is critical to evaluate the current leadership team to ensure that they are equipped to handle the new challenges that come with expansion. This can be done through an independent assessment, a process that involves a series of exercises and simulations designed to evaluate a candidate's skills, abilities, and potential. This approach can help create a fair and objective evaluation process for both current leaders and external candidates. It can also provide valuable insights into the leaders' strengths and areas for improvement, which can be used to create a plan for their development and growth within the organization. 

Start with transparency 

To successfully hire new bosses while keeping the original team engaged and motivated, founders should start by being transparent with their employees. It is essential to communicate that the company is looking for someone to help it grow and that employee input is valuable. Founders should be clear about the position they are hiring for and the qualities they are looking for in a candidate. This approach will help the team understand the importance of the hiring process and feel involved in the decision-making. 

Founders should also remind employees of their vested interests and use equity as an incentive. Early employees have a vested interest in the company's success. Reminding them that as the company becomes more profitable, their equity options become more valuable can help motivate them to participate in the hiring process and invest in the company's growth. 

Plan for the long-term 

While short-term goals are crucial, founders must also plan for the long-term. They should think about how the new hire will fit into the company's overall strategy and what impact they will have on the culture. It is essential to consider the skills and qualities that are essential for the position and hire someone who has the potential to grow with the company. 

Empower your employees to meet candidates 

Founders can make their employees feel more involved in the hiring process by inviting them to participate in interviews. This not only empowers them but also gives an additional perspective on the candidate. This approach helps employees feel valued and invested in the company's future. For example, Airbnb successfully hired a new COO, Belinda Johnson, who was an experienced executive from a big tech company. The company held a town hall where Johnson answered questions from employees, and her presentation was also live-streamed. By doing this, Airbnb created a sense of transparency and trust among employees, which is critical for maintaining a positive company culture. 

Expect some turnover 

It is essential to be realistic about the potential for turnover when hiring above the original team. While losing valuable team members is never easy, making pragmatic choices can help the company survive and reach the next stage. 

Communicate regularly during onboarding 

Once a new leader is hired, it is critical to communicate regularly with employees. Founders should ensure that employees understand the new leader's role and how it fits into the company's overall strategy. Encouraging open communication between the new leader and the team will help ensure a smooth transition and help the team understand how they can work together to achieve the company's goals. 

In conclusion, hiring new leaders for your startup is challenging, but with the right approach, you can find the right fit for your team. By being transparent with your employees, empowering them to participate in the hiring process, implementing a robust interview process, and planning for the long-term, you can build a strong team that will help your startup succeed. 

At Melon, we understand that finding the right leaders is crucial for the success and growth of a tech startup. Our approach is different from traditional recruitment agencies. We begin by gaining a deep understanding of your company's culture, values, and strategic objectives. Then, leveraging our expertise in the startup ecosystem and technology landscape, we identify and attract top talent who possess the necessary skills, experience, and mindset to drive success and growth. Our focus is not only on finding leaders who meet your immediate needs but also on identifying individuals who have the potential to grow and evolve with your organization.