Large  companies  are  able  to  craft  robust  succession plans, while  the  middle  market  and  smaller  companies  often have difficulty finding and retaining successors. CEOs impact the company’s strategy, execution and ultimately  business  and  financial performance.


Finding the right CEO is the Board of Directors’ most important  task.  From  the  board  perspective,  no  one  on  the  outside  could  understand  completely  all  of  the nuances  of  your business,  culture  and  your company’s situation  within  the  industry  better  than  an  insider.  External candidates  will  always  need time  to  adjust  and  require  guidance  and  support  of  the  board  to succeed.


So just how do you find the right CEO? 


First:  In  order  to  get  what  you  want,  you  have  to know  what  you  want.   What  are  your objectives?   What is working and what is not working with your current situation?  What criteria  are  you  going  to  measure  each candidate  against? How  will  you  measure success  once you  hire  the  person?


Second: It is always a good idea to explore multiple scenarios  and  plan  for  contingencies.  It  may  take  a little  bit  longer  than  you  would  like  to  find  the  right person.  Do  you  have  a  member  of  the  board  of directors step in temporarily? Do you hire an interim executive?  Who  within  the company  could  take on some  of  the  responsibility?


Third:  Assign  a  board member  to  oversee  the  search, and  drive  for  results.  This  person  needs  to  make finding  the  right  CEO  their  highest priority.  Often  it  is best  if  this  is  not  assigned  to  the Chairman,  but  to another  board member.  This person  works  to  define  the expectations and goals for the position, works with the executive search professional to develop a position description,  performs  the  initial interviews,  and  helps build  consensus  among  the  board members,  and assists  in  creating  a  smooth  recruiting  and  hiring process,  which  is  important  to  attract  quality  talent.


Fourth:  Look  for  qualities  that  are  universal  to  high-level  performers.  Some  of  the  things  you  want  to  look for  are:
  • Integrity
  • Track  record  of  demonstrated  Good Judgment
  • Capable (experience with a similar situation/ industry) and Capacity Builder
  • High Energy  and  High Endurance
  • Visionary  and  Strategic  Leader
  • Inspiring,  Courageous  and  Compassionate
  • History of Building Productive Relationships with colleagues, partners, and other stakeholders
  • Embraces Change  and  Leads through Change


Fifth: Engage  an  executive search firm,  and  work  with the  firm  to:
  • Manage  and  drive  the  process.
  • Build  consensus  among  board  members.
  • Remain objective about the hire. We know how chemistry can result in a poor choice and will help you  avoid  deciding  on  pure  chemistry.
  • Reach  out  to  people  outside  of  your network.  You  will  see  more  and  possibly  better talent.
  • Create  a  decision partner.  This  is  someone  who has  worked  with  many  companies  at  these decision points  and  who understands the  pressures you  are  under.  Someone  you  can  trust  to  help you  come  to  the  right decision.
  • Create a choice. Ultimately, you want to choose between  2  or  3  very appropriate candidates,  each  of  whom  could  do  the  job.  The  only decision  then  becomes,  “Who  is  the  very best  for  us?”
  • Be a negotiation partner. Often recruiters can help you  build trust  with  the  chosen candidate  during the negotiation process by becoming an interested negotiator, and help keep emotions to a minimum during  the  often  tricky  offer  process.


Solid CEO’s are hard to find.  The process  is  sometimes difficult  to  manage  without  the  assistance  of  a  search professional.  A good search professional will keep the process  moving  quickly  to  a solution,  build consensus, and  minimize  pure  emotional  decision  making.   In  most  cases,  working  with  a  search professional provides  you  with  a pool of  higher quality  candidates from which to choose.  A  good  search  professional  will  take  most  of  the  heavy  lifting  out  of  finding  and  securing  the  Right  CEO.