How to Bring a CEO On Board: A Guide for Business Leaders

Are you looking to bring a full-time CEO into your business for the first time? 

Whether it’s because your business has reached a point where it needs a different skillset or you want to do other things with your time rather than running the business daily, transitioning to a new CEO is an exciting time.

It also has challenges. In fact, a large percentage of new CEOs fail within the first 18 months of coming on board, according to the Harvard Business Review.

To help you navigate the transition of a new CEO during this period of change, here are some of the key strategies and best practices I’ve used whilst running seven successful businesses and recommended during my 14 years of coaching business leaders.  

Prepare, prepare, prepare

As Barack Obama once said, “Leadership more than anything is about setting a course and describing a vision for people.”

That’s why it’s vital you put in the time to prepare for the upcoming changes to your business so you can lead everyone towards your common goal.

Planning how your business will function with a new CEO shouldn’t start in their first week but months ahead of their arrival. This essential preparation paves the roadmap to success. 

It will give you the time to establish your long-term plans for the business, set the wheels in motion for a successful transition, and empower you to correct course as needed.  

For more information about the business benefits of planning ahead, check out my Planning for Growth blog. 

Define everyone’s roles

When transitioning to a new CEO, establishing clear roles and responsibilities is of utmost importance. 

Firstly, this will help your incoming CEO understand the parameters of their new position. Although they may have previously worked in a similar senior role, defining their responsibilities will embolden them to make decisions that contribute to your organisation’s long-term success. 

Secondly, it will help you, as the owner, learn how to step back from the decision-making and operational processes you’d previously controlled. I’ve seen first-hand just how hard the transition can be. It’s only natural you want to get involved with decisions about your business. It will require work and real thought but allowing your new CEO to take on some of your responsibilities will free you to find new things to do with your time.

And finally, communicating the new-look organisational structure to your whole company will provide clarity and focus for everyone on your team.

Hire wisely

I recently asked my LinkedIn connections what is most important to them when hiring a full-time CEO for their business. The joint top answer was ‘Their experience’ and ‘Their cultural fit’.

To help make an informed decision about who is the best fit for your business, I recommend the profiling tool, Talent Dynamics. It gives you a third-party objective view of how people interact with each other.

For example, if you’re a visionary entrepreneur who captures and retains the vision for your business, your perfect match would be someone who can go out and deliver the vision for the business.  

Talent Dynamics can help you recruit the right people in the right positions. That’s why, when clients get down to the last two or three candidates in the hiring process, I strongly encourage putting them all through the assessment.

As an accredited practitioner, I’ve helped about 1,000 people create the right teams with Talent Dynamics. Find out more about this invaluable business tool here.  

Monitor & adjust as necessary

Once your new CEO is in place, that doesn’t mean the process is complete. It’s crucial to continuously monitor progress and evaluate outcomes to ensure everything is working effectively.

I recommend encouraging your team to share their thoughts and embrace collaboration. This is particularly important during a change in leadership, which can be met with uncertainty and resistance. 

Another way for organisations to thrive is to be agile and adaptable. So don’t be afraid to innovate, experiment, or change course as it will foster a culture where problem-solving and decision-making can flourish.

On a personal note, once you’ve taken a step back from your business, you may want to re-think your new role having gone through the so-called ‘4 stages of retirement’. 

  • Stage 1 involves doing nothing and getting up late
  • Stages 2-3 involve doing all the jobs you’ve always wanted to do…until there’s nothing left 
  • Stage 4 is all about re-discovering your purpose

As a business coach, I can help you navigate the final stage by defining your new aspirations and creating a strategy for how you want to spend your time.

How can I help you?

Having coached numerous businesses through the process of introducing a new CEO, I can help with every stage of the transition from hiring and retiring to merging businesses and moving on to new ventures.

Some business leaders struggle to know what to do with their time. I’ll provide a fresh perspective, challenge your thinking, and stretch your ambitions to help you decide what you want to focus on.

Common questions I can help answer include:

  • What kind of person do you want to bring in?
  • What will their role (and yours) involve?
  • How do you see your business progressing?
  • What’s your long-term plan e.g. will you exit the business?

The chances are there probably isn’t anyone else you can discuss these things with. I come with no baggage. I’ll point out things you can’t see. I’ll support you through the recruitment process and beyond.

Once we’ve defined what you want to do, I’ll help figure out what you need to do to achieve it. My passion is making sure it works the first time for you.

“When you’re struggling to find direction, James is a safe place to go.” 

Steve Hudson, Founder, Brastop Ltd and Curvy Kate Ltd

Do you want to step back from your business? Together, let’s put in place a structure that lets you accelerate business success and achieve personal freedom.

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