President/CEO Matching Requirements to Specific Context

Start-Up Thrust of the Job Characteristics of the Candidate
  • High financial risk
  • Limited management team depth and breadth
  • Little organization, systems and processes
  • Endless work to get accomplished
  • Multiple priorities and obstacles
  • Generally insufficient resources to satisfy all demands
  • Embryonic relationships with suppliers, customers and general business ecosystem
  • Firm’s culture reflects personality of founder
  • Create/continually refine vision of the business
  • Establish/refine/validate business model
  • Establish core technical and marketing expertise
  • Build management team
  • Drive early adoption/market validation
  • Make things happen
  • Carefully manage relationship with founder
  • Survive
  • Vision of the finished business
  • Hands-on orientation: a ‘doer’ who leads from the front
  • In-depth knowledge in critical technical and/or markets
  • Organizing ability
  • Staffing skills
  • Team-building capabilities – can inspire followership
  • High energy level, stamina
  • Optimism/Resilience
  • Personal magnetism: charisma
  • Sales capabilities – internal and external
  • Highly adaptive
  • Broad knowledge of all key functions
  • Creative/Improvisational
  • Frugal
  • Attention to detail – owner mindset
  • Understands characteristics of founder-led businesses


Rapid Growth – Scaling Thrust of the Job Characteristics of the Candidate
  • Moderate to high financial risk
  • New markets, products, technologies
  • Multiple demands and at times conflicting priorities
  • Rapidly expanding organization
  • Inadequate managerial/technical/financial resources to meet all demands
  • Unequal growth across sectors of organization
  • Likely shifting power bases as growth occurs
  • Constant struggle between executing current work and building support systems for the future
  • Processes, systems strained or simply not adequate
  • Founder(s) may or may not still be involved – context can be delicate
  • Increasing market share in key sectors
  • Managing rapid change
  • Building clear vision of the future
  • Building capacity for growth
  • Judiciously add process as the company can absorb it
  • Add overall maturity but not at the cost of entrepreneurialism
  • Building brand
  • Excellent strategic and financial planning skills
  • Clear vision of the future
  • Ability to balance priorities, ie. stability versus growth
  • Organizational and team building skills
  • Moderate – high risk taker
  • High energy level
  • Excellent staffing skills
  • Still hands-on with a bias for action but brings professional management skills and knowledge of processes to the table
  • Experienced in the specific journey from the present to the future


Mature/Slow Growth Thrust of the Job Characteristics of the Candidate
  • Controlled financial risk
  • Main products/services viable and profitable
  • Unattractive industry in long term
  • Possible need to invest selectively, but major new investments may not be worthwhile
  • Internal organizational stability
  • Moderate to high managerial, technical competence
  • Adequate systems and administrative infrastructure
  • Acceptable to excellent relationships with suppliers, customers and environment
  • Efficiency/Optimization
  • Stability
  • ​Succession
  • Sensing signs of change
  • Extract value
  • Technically knowledgeable: Knows the business
  • Sensitive to changes: Ear to the ground but operates within the box
  • Anticipates problems
  • Strong administrative skills
  • Oriented to systems
  • Strong relationship orientation
  • Recognizes need for and nurtures management succession and development
  • Oriented to getting the most out of the business: focus on efficiency more than growth
  • Low risk orientation
  • Professional manager


Turnaround/Stuck Thrust of the Job Characteristics of the Candidate
  • Time pressure for results
  • Need for rapid situational assessment and decision-making
  • Poor results but business perceived to be worth saving
  • Weak or weakening competitive position
  • Eroded morale: low esteem/cohesion
  • Inadequate systems: Possible weak or bureaucratic organizational infrastructure
  • Strained and eroded relationships with suppliers, customers and environment
  • Lack of appropriate leadership: period of neglect/decline
  • Limited resources: Skills shortages: some incompetent personnel
  • Rapid, accurate problem diagnosis
  • Fixing short term and ultimately long term problems
  • Take charge orientation: strong, decisive leader
  • Strong analytical and diagnostic skills, especially financial
  • Excellent business strategist
  • High energy level
  • Risk-taker
  • Handles pressure well
  • Good crisis management skills
  • Good negotiator

About the Author

Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.

Contact Robert by email at [email protected] or call (1) 416-365-9494 EXT 777

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