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, a venture capital firm based in Los Angeles, I decided to connect with some former colleagues in case our potential investors wanted references (they did). While I was catching up with my former boss at Stroud Consulting, he asked me something unexpected — “When are you going to hire your replacement?”
“If you’re afraid of hiring someone smarter than you, you should probably reevaluate if you’re the right person to lead your company.”
At first I was caught off guard. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer him. 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 are 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 (ME), 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. When he accepted our offer I was ecstatic. Then a week later, panic set in. For a (very long) afternoon, I was worried that by hiring my replacement, it meant 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 the fear that can cripple startups. The fear of being replaced (in some form or fashion) can prevent promising startups from getting the right talent on board.
If you’re having to 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. It doesn’t mean that you’re not being productive. It simply means you need more resources and that you’re mature enough to realize it.
Continuously hire your replacement.
As a startup founder 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 development, 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 new employees to fill roles you can’t do yourself. But you also need to hire the roles 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. Focus on that! Hire your replacement over and over again until you’re owning 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 single time. If you’re hiring your replacement and that person is worse at the role than you, 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.
If you’re afraid of hiring someone smarter than you, you should probably reevaluate if you’re the right person to lead your company.
Hiring your replacement can be frightening. 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. Good luck my friend, and happy recruiting!
This article has been edited and condensed.
Scott Sundvor is a co-founder of 6SensorLabs, building products to create food transparency. Scott loves hardware, beautifully designed products, and delicous healthy food. This article originally appeared on Medium. Connect with @ScottSundvor on Twitter.
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