How to Get Exec-Level Capabilities for Your Small Business
It’s okay if your small business doesn’t have a full-blown C-suite. Most smaller organizations aren’t set up to need a half-dozen or more executive officers. However, just because you’re limited in size doesn’t mean you can’t develop some C-level capabilities. You can — if you’re willing to think and act creatively.
The benefits of taking steps toward having the executive-related assets of a larger company can run the gamut. First, you’ll position your brand for faster, more focused growth. After all, you’ll be running your operations to be as fine-tuned as possible. Secondly, you’ll help flesh out your business’s mission, vision, and purpose. C-suite professionals are wired to think of the broader picture. They’re not mired in the day-to-day. And if you can mimic their big-picture mentality, you can nab small company wins.
If you feel like your organization has reached a general plateau, trying the following C-style strategies can help. They’ll bring you and your team quite a bit of the value that companies with robust C-suites have. Additionally, they’ll help you get ready for the day when you get large enough to have many “Cs” on the payroll.
1. Invest in different forms of fractional leadership.
One quick way to get all the expertise of an executive without paying an executive salary is through fractional leadership. This practice involves bringing in fractional, or part-time, C-suite members. For instance, you might hire a fractional CFO to manage your financial matters. The fractional CFO would be a consultant or freelancer, not an employee. Your arrangement could include a pay-by-the-hour or other agreed-upon structure. Since C-suite hires can be expensive, you’ll be getting a bargain.
You can go a different route if you need C-suite capabilities beyond the expertise of a single individual. Take your marketing, for instance. Perhaps you can only dedicate a couple of people to marketing endeavors. In that case, you may want to partner with a fractional CMO firm like Hawke Media. Unlike traditional marketing agencies, Hawke Media is set up to act in a fractional CMO capacity. That way, you can get CMO wisdom as well as marketing assistance all rolled into one. And if you’re not quite ready for a full fractional partnership, Hawke Media delivers a la carte marketing services as well. Similar to its fractional CMO capabilities, Hawke Media’s a la carte solutions provide access to five-star thinkers and technologies.
2. Partner your leaders with world-class mentors.
What are the current titles of the leaders across your organization? Do you have directors, supervisors, managers, or line leads? Each of these individuals is probably doing some C-type duties. For example, your sales director may be in charge of developing short-term and long-term conversion goals. Or your people manager may conduct all applicant interviews, negotiate with insurance carriers, and generate onboarding assets. Imagine if all of these people had just a little more guidance. They could quickly ramp up their talents — and the effectiveness of your business.
Mentoring is an excellent way to get them to professionals eager to share good advice. By designing and supporting a formal mentoring program, you’ll show your highest performers you believe in them. And they’ll pass their skill sets down. Michael Lee, the President, and CEO at FinDec, has written about this “share the wealth” mentoring phenomenon. As he explains, “When managers mentor… It creates a culture where employees are encouraged to leverage professional development from internal senior professionals… Senior leaders can introduce young professionals to networks that can open new doors, enhancing opportunities for upward mobility.” In other words, mentoring is the gift that keeps on giving.
3. Bring in the best tech you can afford.
The right technology can make even startups more competitive, streamlined, and optimized. Even if you’re still in the midst of bootstrapping your first venture, put dollars toward technological systems. For example, if you sell B2B, get a CRM that can be your single-source repository of all knowledge. If you sell B2C, investigate platforms that allow you to have visibility into everything from supply chain management to shipping. The more you can do with a piece of technology, the more your brand will be able to differentiate.
Once your tech is in place, you can start amassing and analyzing data. A recent Mantas study showed that a full 78% of the most successful C-suite executives believe in using data. Therefore, having access to trustworthy data allows you and your leaders to have similar insights to inform decisions.
4. Promote from within and hire with a future-forward mindset.
Moving forward, try to fill your mid-level and upper-level leadership positions internally. When you do, you’ll set your organization up to gain tremendous legacy know-how. This is an understandably slow way to begin moving toward executive-level capabilities. Nevertheless, the steady maturity of your best, strongest, and most innovative people will pay dividends later.
Of course, not all positions can be filled with employees on staff. When sourcing from the outside, be very deliberate. Look for a solid mix of potential as well as the education and credentials you need or prefer. Remember that some impressive candidates might not have had the opportunities to shine yet, though. Applicants from historically underrepresented backgrounds often fall into this category. Accordingly, consider freshening up on your diverse hiring practices. After all, McKinsey & Co. research is very clear that diverse teams perform and flex better. The goal is for you to construct a small team with big thinkers, big potential, and big goals.
Your business may stay in the “small” category for years. But it doesn’t have to be limited as far as C-suite possibilities are concerned. Making just a few changes for your small business could allow you to get C-suite benefits even if you’re in your early startup phase.