The opportunities for both start ups and large corporations have never been greater. For start ups it is easier than ever to take an idea, get it funded and create a business of real value – often displacing established businesses in the process. At the other end of the spectrum, big businesses in just about every sector have never had such potential to transform their industry, brand perception and customer relationships, through the application of technology.
Ambitious corporations know they need to act more like a nimble start up to get new ideas, products and services to market fast. Early stage businesses, who sense a window of opportunity, know they need to adapt many working practices in order to scale and increasingly need to bring in seasoned operators to help achieve their potential. We may look back on this epoch as the time when all businesses became digital businesses and, as the start up and corporate worlds collide, there will be big winners and big losers.
As experts in Digital & Technology talent, who hire for both large corporations and early stage businesses, we see the choices that companies make on both sides. Who they hire and how they integrate, or fail to integrate, is one of the most critical factors in business success. Here are some of our observations and five recommendations that we feel can be equally applied to both scenarios.
1. PREPARE THE BUSINESS BEFORE THEY JOIN
By clearing their path for potential ‘blockers’ you will enable them to have the biggest impact. Not everyone wants to seek forgiveness rather than permission at every juncture. Try to buy them as much permission up front as you can. You are probably hiring them to be bold – so make sure they can be.
2. DON’T EXPECT THEM TO WORK IN THE SAME WAY
There will be limits to how flexible you can be but try and allow for working practices that will, at times, be radically different. The only litmus test should be whether the successful execution of their objectives has the potential to create significant value. If their approach doesn’t feel sufficiently different, you probably haven’t hired the right person.
3. EXPECT, AND ALLOW FAILURE
Anything that comes with high stakes has high risk. You should mitigate this risk but expect bold moves to sometimes blow up. By expecting this and giving permission to fail, the individual and the business will learn quicker and can change course more effectively. You wont always get it right first time.
4. ENSURE INCENTIVES ARE ALIGNED
By making a move to a different environment, there will be trade offs and the incentives for success must be aligned. Incentives need not just be financial, they could be access to a huge audience or the potential to transform the perception of a global brand. The person you hire will want to feel they have had every opportunity to make an impact and rewards are commensurate with achievements.
5. AIM TO MAKE THEIR IMPACT REDUNDANT
The biggest ratification of a successful hire is often that the thing you hired them for is no longer required. This doesn’t mean the individual is surplus to requirements, rather the business has been transformed and there is a lasting legacy – whether the person stays or goes. And as the old adage goes, if they are truly talented and highly ambitious: be surprised when they stay, not when they leave.