March 28, 2019
6 tips for hiring your first CEO

When is it time to hire your company's first CEO? While it may not be suitable if you're still in the very early startup phases, it's also important to note that a CEO could be exactly what you need to move out of the startup stage and become an established business. 

However, you want to get the hire right, and if you've never looked for a CEO before it can be difficult to know where to start. That's why we've created this guide to hiring your New Zealand company's first CEO:

1) Consider what you want your first CEO to achieve

Before putting any job advert out, you should think about what you want your first CEO to achieve. Brainstorm some specific business goals you'd like them to accomplish as well as accompanying timelines. For example, how much do you want to grow your business by, and when do you want to realise this growth? How many customers do you want to gain, and what markets do you want to enter into? In addition, you may want to consider questions regarding your company's values and ethics – are there any environmental or social goals you want to achieve?

These are all essential questions that you need to answer before hiring. You can then discuss these aims with applicants to see how they intend to take you there. 

Before you start writing a job advert, take a step back and think about what you want your first CEO to achieve. Before you do anything, it's essential you take a step back and consider what you want your company's first CEO to achieve.

2) Write a list of skills you require

As with any job vacancy, you should consider what skills are absolute non-negotiables for your first CEO. These should include:

  • Strategy skills.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Financial acumen.
  • Shareholder return.
  • Ability to woo the boardroom and put forward arguments.
  • Social and emotional intelligence.
  • Strong communication skills and ability to build relationships.
  • Adaptability.

This is by no means an exhaustive list – some of the specific skills required will depend on the type of industry in which you operate and the goals you would like your first CEO to achieve.

3) Think about what experience you'd like your first CEO to have

In the age of increased regulation and oversight, it's also essential you ask candidates about their risk appetite and ethics.

If you work in a specific or niche industry, you will probably want your first CEO to have previous experience in the same sector. For businesses still in the startup phase, you may require a CEO that has a proven track record of taking smaller businesses and establishing them more fully. 

4) Ask about their risk appetite and morals

In the age of increased regulation and oversight, it's also essential you ask candidates about their risk appetite and ethics. This is especially the case if your business operates in the financial sector, as many in New Zealand are calling for an inquiry similar to that of the Australian Royal Commission. You want a CEO that isn't adverse to taking risks, but who knows when a path is too dangerous to follow. 

Likewise, it's important to have a CEO that has a strong moral compass and doesn't put the ability to make money above your company's values and ethics. So it is essential to ask them what their attitude towards making money is.

You should always ask a potential CEO hire about risk appetite, especially if you work in a high-scrutiny industry such as banking. It's important to ask questions regarding risk appetite and ethics, especially if your business operates in high-scrutiny industries such as finance.

5) Think about their pay package

The candidate you decide to hire for your company's first CEO could be the make or break of your business.

Linked to this is the need to consider how you will structure your first CEO's remuneration package. Candidates will likely ask about this during interview stage, and CEO salary packages are normally much more complicated than for normal hires. This is because CEO pay is often linked to (among other things) company profits, corporate social responsibility and the creation of shareholder value. You need to revisit what you want your CEO to achieve as well as your company values in order to structure a pay package accordingly. 

6) Consider employing the services of an executive search firm 

The candidate you decide to hire for your company's first CEO could be the make or break of your business, so it's important you get it right. It's natural to be nervous – this is your first CEO after all. That's why it helps to employ the services of an executive search and recruitment firm such as JacksonStone & Partners.

We have years of experience helping New Zealand businesses recruit for the C-suite, and have expertise in a broad range of industries and organisations operating across the country. Contact us today for more information.