Handing your business over to someone else is a challenge that every entrepreneur will experience to some extent during their career. But how do you manage that to make sure that the right person is running your business?
"Ensuring that someone else can eventually run the business that you’re building depends on one key thing," according to Richard Branson, "whether or not you find the right person."
No matter how big your company is, the Virgin Founder says in a recent blog post, this is still true.
It’s why over the years, the Virgin Founder has insisted on being involved in senior-level hiring decisions at all the Virgin companies. And he’s certainly not the only entrepreneur to follow a similar practice – Larry Page at Google insists on having the final say on whether or not to make a job offer to anyone being considered for a leadership role.
But how can you make sure that you can have confidence in their choices?
"If you keep a constant stream of strong candidates flowing into every position from the moment you launch your business, promoting from within may be a great solution," Richard says. "Then when an executive or manager does leave, you should try to give that job to someone who is already working for your company – they will already know your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and have the support of the rest of the team."
Of course there will be times when you’ll have to consider bringing new people, especially if your business needs an injection of energy. "Be sure to take a close look at people who have thrived in different industries and jobs – these people tend to be versatile, good at tackling problems creatively, and to possess transferable skills. To find such candidates, ask people during interviews what jobs they’ve left off their resumes,” Richard advises. "Don’t get hung up on qualifications. A person who has multiple degrees in your field isn’t always a better choice than someone who has a broader experience and a good personality."
One of the most important considerations you must make is whether or not an applicant fits into your company’s culture. "The right person will build upon what you’ve created, but the wrong person can bring it all down very quickly – and culture can take an awfully long time to rebuild," he says.
But how do you make sure they fit into the culture? Here’s how Richard does it:
"A great way of gauging whether an applicant will fit with your company’s culture is to ask two or three employees who will be working with this person to join the interview process at some point and ask a few questions of their own.
"This process lets you observe how an applicant interacts with them. Look for clues about whether he is fun, friendly and caring – all indications that he understands teamwork and values helping others."