Avoiding C-Suite Mistakes: Chapter 3 — Recruiting Your First C-Suite Executive

Read the previous installments of “Avoiding C-Suite Mistakes” here.

If you Google “Job descriptions for C-Suite executives,” for CEO, COO, CFO, VP of HR, or CIO, the number of articles and posts is in the thousands. Certainly the information is there to help you develop your profile, job description, accountabilities, reporting structures, salary ranges — everything you need regarding C-Suite hires. When you know what you are looking for, this information is readily available. So that becomes the first question: “What are you looking for?”

By now, you have a rudimentary idea of the C-Suite executive you are seeking, but having never recruited and hired a C-Level executive, what are your moves now? Although you’re very close to knowing what executive skillset you need, our advice is to add “experience” to your due diligence.

Our recommendation is to speak with comparable senior executives for the role you’re looking to fill — whether it’s a COO, CEO, HR director, or CFO. Using your connections — colleagues, patients, church, social networks — find access to a head of HR, CFO, or COO. Talk to people who do the job. Ask them about their job. What are they responsible for? Learn on a personal level what their job is, and by the third or fourth interaction with comparable senior executives, you’ll know what you’re looking for and will be ready to recruit.

What Skillsets Am I Looking For?

Get firsthand knowledge of someone’s experience in the job and exactly what they do. Then go back to Google and reread some of the profiles, responsibilities and accountabilities. Combining direct experience with information leads to knowledge. With this knowledge, you will know what you need in the C-Suite.

Now you have a clear understanding of what skillsets you need, but this is only half the equation. What kind of person are you looking to hire? That is equally as critical — perhaps more so — than hiring for the superior skillset. You need the skillset, but if it comes with the wrong person, you’re headed for trouble.

Then comes the next rung in the ladder: recruiting. We have no magic bullet here. Our clients have used everything and everyone to find candidates. Many are from existing DSOs who are ready for their next step, which doesn’t seem available where they were. Many are from related industries such as emergent care, optical, or physical therapy entities. Some are from other industries. Dental group practices haven’t been around long enough to have developed deep and rich resources for hiring C-Suite executives.

The advice we give to our clients is the C-Suite hire has to be a kind of partnership — one that operates out of shared core values, shared aspirations, shared vision, and shared admiration.

The first step is to figure out how to reveal those qualities and characteristics in the senior executive partner you are interviewing.

What Kind of Person Am I Looking For?

Use the best tools available: behavioral interviewing, personality assessments, speaking with references, and gauging the feeling you get from the candidate. Observe how they behave at work and in social situations. Take note: When you are speaking, are you speaking the same language? Are they equally excited about the future and what might be possible? Learning the opinions of your key staff is also helpful. These tactics should all be in the mix during the hiring process.

You know where pain and performance is the worst — where the mistakes, oversights, and most management time and dollars are spent. You realize that hiring a senior executive to be accountable for this portion of the practice is a must. And you know two things need to be in place to hire: knowing exactly what you are looking for, and knowing who you are looking for.

Once you have hired and onboarded your first C-Suite executive, recruitment and hiring of the next candidates is much easier. You’ll know you made a good choice if you are both operating in a true partnership, with an aligned vision, purpose, and values; communication is clean and direct; being with this person enables you to be better at what you do; and the business is now performing at a much better level.

— Marc

ReferencesThe New Path to the C-Suite

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