A few weeks ago, I hired my replacement for the third time. And it felt awesome.
Before we raised our Series Seed, led by UpFront Ventures, I connected with some former colleagues in case our potential investors wanted references (they did). While I caught up with my former boss at Stroud Consulting, he asked me something unexpected — “When are you going to hire your replacement?”
At first I was caught a little off guard and wasn’t quite sure how to answer. But then it dawned on me: I had already hired my replacement. Since then, I’ve done it twice more. And there are a few things from those experiences that I think would be useful to share.
- Don’t be afraid to hire your replacement.
The first time I hired my replacement was the most difficult.
My background is in Mechanical Engineering, and I’m the technical co-founder of 6SensorLabs. But between all of my other responsibilities as a co-founder, I simply wasn’t able to dedicate enough time to ME work.
So, we decided to hire another ME. We found a stellar engineer within a couple of months, and when he accepted our offer I was ecstatic.
Panic set in a week later. For a very long afternoon, I worried that by hiring my replacement, it meant that I would be replaced. Talking to my co-founder made me realize pretty quickly how irrational that fear was, but I now see that it’s exactly that fear that cripples startups from getting the right resources on board.
If you work every night and every weekend to cover all of your responsibilities, it’s time to hire your replacement. Hiring someone to take over a role that you’re capable of doesn’t mean you’re failing, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not productive. It simply means that you need more resources and that you’re mature enough to realize that.
- Continuously hire your replacement.
As a startup founder (or early employee, in some cases), you have to take on a lot of responsibility. In the beginning, it’s probably just you and your co-founder, and the two of you take care of everything: product management, project management, engineering, operations, fundraising, marketing, sales, business development, and on and on.
As your business grows, it’s not reasonable for just a few people to take care of all those responsibilities. Obviously, you need to hire for the roles that you can’t do yourself (in 6Sensor’s case, a chemical engineer and an electrical engineer were early hires that my co-founder and I did not have the experience to do ourselves). But you also need to hire the roles that you can do but don’t have enough time or experience to do well.
If you try to take on too many responsibilities, you end up doing them all poorly. Focus on a few things and excel.
Find what you’re great at and enjoy doing and focus on that. Hire your replacement over and over again until you own one specific role. And then crush it.
- Hire replacements that are better than you.
You need to hire the best people possible to add the most value to your company. This should be true for all hires, every time.
If you hire your replacement and that person is worse at the position than you are, that’s not the right person for the job. A startup needs people that can execute on their own with minimal management. The only way to get that is if you hire people that are better than you.
If you’re the smartest person in the room, it means you’ve filled the room with the wrong people.
And if you’re afraid of hiring someone smarter than you, you should probably seriously reevaluate if you’re the right person to lead your company.
Hiring your replacement can be frightening, and the hiring process itself is rarely easy. If you’re honest with yourself and are proactive about continuously reevaluating your role and responsibilities, you’ll know when it’s time to hire your replacement. It will help you and it will help your company. Happy recruiting!
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Rodrigo Bertolino