Four steps to hiring a CEO to run an entrepreneur’s business

Mitesh Soma reveals why he’s hired a CEO to run £15m turnover Chemist Direct and how entrepreneurs can do it too

Last month Mitesh Soma, founder of £15m turnover online pharmacy Chemist Direct and a Growing Business Young Gun in 2008, took the bold decision to step back from running the company he set up and hire a chief executive to take on the role of running the growing business.
The experienced Stuart Rowe joined the company from e-tailer Play.com, where he was managing director. In his tenure at Play.com Rowe helped grow the Jersey-based company’s to become one the world’s 50 biggest online retail firms, securing him a place on Retail Week’s ‘Etail Power List’ in 2010. Here, Soma shares why he decided to bring in a CEO and his four-step checklist to making it happen:

When I first set up Chemist Direct in 2007, I was very hands-on. I was involved in recruiting all of the staff, from senior management to junior warehouse staff, which was very demanding. But as the business grew, it become much more difficult to have that kind of approach.

I was involved in the somewhat mundane, day-to-day detail of managing 50 staff, and with seven managers reporting to me on a regular basis, I spent most of my time in meetings every week.

Last year I felt I needed to have more time to focus on strategy and growth. I realised I needed someone to take on the day-to-day running of the business, otherwise I would be effectively strangling the business by not allowing it to grow.

Personally I feel there is a distinction between entrepreneurs who prefer to identify opportunities and create businesses, and managers, who are skilled at ensuring KPIs/targets are met.

As a result I recruited Stuart Rowe, who joined Chemist Direct as CEO in March this year, and below are my tips to other entrepreneurs on how to find the right person for the job.

1. Clear business vision and job roleThink about the vision of the business and what your objectives are. How do you expect to achieve these objectives? What can be done to help you achieve them? If you are tied up in daily management meetings, a new CEO or MD could help free up your time, and allow you to foster new partnerships. Make sure you have a clear idea of what the job role would include. Look at what skills a potential candidate needs to strengthen the team to plug any gaps.

2. Get the word outIt can be hard to know how to get started. Speak to other entrepreneurs and other supportive professionals such as accountants and lawyers to find out if they know anyone suitable.  If this doesn’t work, find a head hunter. Make sure they have a clear sense of what you are looking for and take your time in selecting the right person.

3. Choosing the right personIt’s essential to gauge a candidate’s personality, their track record and their skills. The chemistry between you and the candidate needs to be right – you must feel comfortable working with them and happy for them to come into your business. Ask them what their strategy would be for the business, and find out what would they do if they got the job.

4. Maintain a good working relationship Once you’ve found and hired your new member of the team, it’s essential to set yourself a few ground rules to follow to ensure you have a good working relationship. Open communication – Set up meetings at least once a week and speak regularly Clear job roles – Make sure you both have a good understanding of who is responsible for what Trust – It can be hard for an entrepreneur to hand over the reins of running your business to someone new but it’s essential to look at the bigger picture and do what’s best for the business.

And how has my experience been? Well, it’s early days, but so far so good. My vision for making Chemist Direct a household name is still on track.

Mitesh Soma is the chairman of chemistdirect.co.uk, the online pharmacy business he set up in 2007.

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