This article is written by Epic Presence.

As startups grow, they take on more employees to provide extra sets of hands to fulfill customer requests and provide essential services like marketing and accounting. These are often employees who can operate independently as a team of one or work with two or three people in a small department. 

However, when your company scales, these teams of three can become teams of 30. The employees you have now might not have the skills and experience to drive a division of that size forward. 

Your hiring decisions today will prepare you for your enterprise-size company of tomorrow. Here’s how to hire to scale and why it is so important for your SaaS startup.


What Does Hiring to Scale Mean?

Hiring to scale means bringing on leaders who are prepared to manage your future company. These are people who see your vision and believe in your business enough to start working for you when your team is small. 

“When hiring management, hire ahead and hire people that you think the organization will grow into,” Dan Westgarth, COO at global payroll solution Deel, who is speaking at SaaStock in October, tells us in an interview.

Westgarth uses the example of a company with less than 20 employees bringing on an operations manager to lead a team of two or three people. Instead of hiring someone who has managed a small team, consider where that part of your business is headed. If you want your operations department to scale to 50 people in a year, hire someone who can handle the future department, not just the small team working for you now. 

Hiring to scale is often easier said than done. Companies worry about bringing in executives too early can you afford to have a VP of marketing when you only have one person on the team? However, the dangers of bringing on someone too late often outweigh the risk of hiring early. 

Great candidates never have to look for work. If you find a strong fit for your business, bring them on. Otherwise, your future VP might not be available when you think your company is ready to hire them. 

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Let Candidates See Your Ugly Side

As you start hiring for scale, look for partners who are eager to see your business grow but who also understand what challenges you face. Executive recruiting isn’t just selling your startup as a great place to work, it involves learning how candidates tackle problems and seeing what it will be like working with them. 

Amy Volas, founder and CEO at Avenue Talent Partners, sets up a collaborative working session with candidates where they get to “stop being polite” and break down real problems facing the company.  

“Then you’re able to see how they think, prepare, connect, challenge, and respond to issues they don’t have the answer to,” Volas explains. “The closer you bring each candidate into the important bits and pieces of the role and business itself, the better your chances of making an A+ hire.”

Any executive worth their salt will want to dig into your business before joining your team. They want to know exactly what they are getting into and how they are expected to help.  

“CFOs must know the ins and outs of the company, including spending time with partners and customers, to gain a holistic view of its financial situation,” writes Leyna O’Quinn at Silicon Valley Bank. “They strike a balance between optimism and pessimism, and they aren’t afraid to deliver bad news on time. This approach can help identify realistic opportunities for the company.”

Leaders crave challenges. They will likely be excited by your problems and eager to be a part of solving them. It’s okay to let candidates see your uglier side during the interview process. 

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Avoid the Cookie-Cutter Executive

In your executive search, you may come across serial executives who work with startups to scale their companies. These leaders love the challenge of growing small teams into major enterprises. However, no two companies are the same, so don’t let your candidates treat you like any other startup. 

“Look for adaptability and willingness to think outside of their playbook,” writes business psychologist and startup advisor Jena Booher. “Beware of candidates who say their playbook is ‘bulletproof’ or ‘can be deployed at any organization.’”

Instead, Booher encourages founders to look for executives who have experience and framework in scaling organizations, and who also understand your company’s nuances before deploying a plan.


Expand Your Horizons to Find Talent

Your future CMO doesn’t have to live in your neighborhood or even in the same country. Your goal is to find a good fit for your company to drive your business into the future. 

“Don’t limit your hiring horizon to a small radius around the headquarters,” says Westgarth. “Hire nationally and go after the best talent.”

By starting early in the candidate search, you can take your time finding the right fit. You won’t feel like you are behind when searching for executive talent to take your business to the next level. 

Hiring for scale is challenging because you need to hire visionaries. You need to bring in people who look at your small team of employees and see their potential. The right executive will be able to scale your department as your business grows and will be there for any problem that arises. It’s worth it to take your time in hiring these team members to ensure you have the right fit today, next month and next year.

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Our return to Dublin will bring with it many ways you can connect with likeminded people and peers in SaaS. Find out 10 ways how we’re facilitating human connections (not just meetings) at SaaStock 2022 in Dublin. Read our blog post.

Get your tickets to SaaStock 2022 in Dublin this October, to experience:

“The best SaaS conference for SaaS founders, VCs and execs in Europe. Period.” – Christoph Janz, Managing Partner, Point Nine