I remember when our first investor at BigCommerce, Larry Bohn, said this to me:
“Once you build out your management team you’ll have so much time on your hands you won’t know what to do with yourself!”
It was 2012 and when I heard what Larry said, I thought “Ha, yeah right! I don’t have time to do anything but work and that won’t change!”.
Why did I think that way? Well, it was because I didn’t realize the importance of building an incredible management team.
How A Good Management Team Works
Back then our “management team” was me, my co-founder and our CFO/COO. We were a force to be reckoned with, but we were just 3 people.
Between 2012 and 2014 we worked hard to build a great management team at BigCommerce. Today the company employs almost 1,000 people and does north of $100,000,000 USD in annual recurring revenue.
We agreed on the positions we wanted to fill first — starting with the roles that would help us continue our growth.
- Engineering was first
- Then product
- Then sales
- Then support
- Then marketing
- Then business development
- Then communications
- Then corporate development
We worked with some great executive search firms, leveraged our network (specifically via our investors including Larry Bohn, Steve Case, Kal Raman and Lorrie Norrington, the former president of eBay International), ramped up our PR, doubled-down on our company culture and started to win a lot of the “best places to work” awards.
The buzz we were able to create no-doubt helped in our recruiting efforts when building out our management team, considering just a few years earlier there were 12 of us working out of a small office in Sydney, Australia.
Between 2012 and 2014, we built a great management team with amazingly talented people from companies like Google, Salesforce, Paypal and Twitter.
There were a few bumps along the way, but as each manager started to ramp up and really own their strategy, we felt comfortable handing off the important decisions.
My #1 Tip For Hiring A Management Team
I remember hearing Jack Dorsey’s now-famous quote that great CEOs are “editors”, not “writers”. And if you start to “write” more than you “edit”, you’ve hired the wrong person.
Your job as an executive is to edit, not write. It’s OK to write once in a while but if you do it often there’s a fundamental problem with the team. Every time you do something ask if you’re writing or editing and get in the mode of editing.
Simple translation — if you start to do the work of your management team then you’ve hired the wrong people.
They should share their decisions and strategy with you, but you shouldn’t be creating it for them.
I took this lesson literally and started developing my leadership styles to match.
As we started to “hand over” the reigns to our new executives, I kept hearing that quote about being less busy in my head. And funnily enough, our investor was right.
As you scale your company and hire a management team full of people who are much smarter than you, it’s scary at first but eventually it becomes liberating.
You definitely spend less time “in” the business and start to work more “on” the business, which means a lot more time on strategy and helping reel in the “big fish” for important management team roles, key partners, etc.
You’re still busy, but in a very different kind of way.
Final Thoughts on Building a Management Team
Good CEOs are busy working “in” the business for the first few years. That’s just how it is. You wear 7 different hats.
One day you’re answering a support ticket, the next day you’re interviewing a VP of marketing.
As you start to grow from a tiny startup into something that resembles a more mature company, your number one priority becomes surrounding yourself with an incredible management team who can do their jobs better than you ever did.
You start to nod in agreement more, trust your team and think to yourself “Wow, this is one hell of a team we’ve been able to build!”.
You delegate more, question less and start to see the big picture. And that’s how you become less busy working “in” the business. But you’ll always be working “on” the business.
That’s why you’re the CEO.