From the outset, the founders must decide how to transition from a collaborative-decision company to a more hierarchical company. The collaborative decision model will eventually fall apart because of various power struggles if it is delayed for too long. Plus, it is unlikely that outside funding is going to be interested in a non-hierarchical organization. The reality is that there are not a lot of examples of successful companies that work in a collaborative-decision model. A while ago RIM (Blackberry) was the poster child of this kind of collaborative team; we all know how that ended up.
Set up a transition date and ensure there is a mechanism in place to transition from collaborative-decision to hierarchical structure. Make sure the initial collaborative team is in agreement that someone will be in charge of the CEO position. Other founders will have domains in which they can exercise control. However, their control will not be in the role of the decision-maker for the startup.
Similarly, match the other roles to the skills of the person.
- The CTO is relatively obvious; does the person have the technical expertise to advance your technology?
- The COO should be an organized person who gets things done on time and on budget. How are they with details?
- If no founder is very good with money then perhaps you need to look outside for a CFO.
- Filling the CMO is tricky. You need to have a marketing plan and then find the person who can implement that plan. So perhaps you need a marketing advisor to help develop the plan. And that advisor is not necessarily going to be hired to lead the marketing effort. In the digital era, marketing is changing rapidly, don't get too focused on past success. Look for vision and passion in marketing products.
- The sales lead. Find someone who loves to sell things. The first thing they should be able to sell is themselves. Let them sell you that they are the perfect person for the job. If their personal sales job is weak, keep looking.
- The CIO role is crucial role in the age of cybersecurity and privacy. Solid system admin skills and awareness of the need for tight security and adherence to standards are essential. Here, a little paranoia isn't such a bad thing.
- If you have a Chief Human Resources Officer or just the head of HR, this is a critical position and tricky to fill. You need experience, but you need someone who understands today's young workers. They enjoy the experience, they want to feel wanted, they want to be appreciated. Your company (and thus the person) must reflect a corporate culture that entices them to join you and convinces them they made the right decision.
- Wasserman Noam. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton University Press. March 25, 2012, ch 5.
- Herrenkohl Eric. How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department. Vol 1 edition. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley. April 12, 2010, ch 6.