When to call in the professionals

As your business grows and evolves, it will need more people and more processes to help keep up the momentum — not to mention just get through the day! At some point, your business will require more knowledge and know-how than you alone can provide. To take it to the next level, you need to call in the reinforcements, otherwise known as professional management.

While there’s no hard and fast rule regarding when to hire a C-suite executive, for most businesses it tends to happen around the time they approach $10 million in revenue. Before you’ve reached $5 million in revenue, chances are you know all the people in the company — and you’re aware of the issues and challenges facing your business. But as your business starts to interact with more clients and suppliers and employ more people, internal processes become a necessity — and, for most entrepreneurs, so does the employment of people to design those processes.

Typically, when you’re in the $10 million to $15 million range in sales, you should start thinking about hiring professional management. This means considering hiring an executive and, maybe, a controller. When you approach the $20 million mark, you may start to require the services of another executive or two.

While the type of professionals you hire — and when to hire them — varies by company, the rule of thumb is to find individuals with skillsets that complement yours. So if you’re great at sales but not-so-great with numbers, you may want to consider hiring a chief financial officer. On the other hand, if you’re all about innovation and developing new products, you may want a chief operations officer who can oversee the business’s operations more efficiently and sell your products in a more targeted way.

Once you’ve identified the gap you need to fill, you must go about finding the right person to fill it. If you’ve never set out looking for a professional executive before, you could benefit from hiring a human resources consulting firm to help you with the task. After all, hiring professional management is not like hiring the typical employee — other issues arise, such as performance-based compensation, employment agreements and possibly ownership in the company. An HR adviser can ease the process by helping you find someone with the right credentials and experience, as well as highlighting those candidates that would be a suitable fit for your company culture. HR consultants can potentially help you with the interview process too.

When it comes time to select your future professional manager(s), make sure they’re people you can see yourself partnering with over the long term, or even selling your business to one day. If they are — and they should be, if you’re bringing them on board in key roles — welcome them with open arms. Make sure their role is well- defined, you’re taking steps to involve them in the business and you’re communicating effectively (through such things as well-structured, regular meetings). And above anything else — and this is possibly the hardest part — be prepared to give up some decision-making control.

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