Board Talk: Building your top team – Simon Swan’s story

9 Mar, 2018

Having the right board in place can keep your fast-growing tech business on track, but how do you find the best people to help you? Tech North spoke to five businesses about finding the right skills to succeed, and this is what they told us…

Large board contains specific skills

Manchester-based Hiring Hub’s board is large but the experience and contacts each member brings is vital.

Simon Swan, founder and chief executive of the recruitment marketplace, put together a new board in September 2017 following a round of investment and says he went out to find candidates with very specific skills.

“Before the fundraiser, the board had become stale and we were looking backwards rather than forwards,” he says. “Now we hardly ever look back at trading performance. We look six months ahead and look at how we’re going to get there.”

Swan founded Hiring Hub in 2010 with no executive background and took on non-executive directors early on when the business received investment. At the time, he was looking for people that had experience of growing online companies, customer acquisition, operations and marketing expertise.

“We were less focused on them coming from recruitment businesses, more that they were good operators that could help us scale the business and get to the next milestone,” he says.

Those appointments can often lead to suggestions of other names that may be able to add value and, since it was revamped last year, the board now includes five non-executives.

Look for a challenge

By their very nature, and through their wealth of experience, the board Swan has built actively challenges him.

“A good board is 50 per cent support and 50 per cent challenge and I like it when the board challenges me,” he says. “As a founder it’s so useful for me to be able to pick up the phone and call people with these backgrounds, and I’ve got different people I’ll call for different things, whether it’s about recruitment, operations or fundraising.

“They’ve helped me develop as a leader and coached me in my role. To work with some of these people and see how they operate, you can’t help but accelerate your own development. Then there’s also the black book of contacts they bring with them.”

Review your board

All board members are on contracts that are reviewed every 12 months to ensure they are still right for the business as Swan points out that the non-executives that will take a business from £500,000 turnover to £1m, may be different to those that would work on moving a business from £1m-£10m.

“It’s a big board but it’s representative of our ambition, we want to be a big company, we have a huge goal and it’s reflective of that,” he says. “It’s like a football team, you pick your striker, goalkeeper, defenders and midfielders and, like a good coach, you reconfigure the team every now and then to make sure it’s optimised.”

Meetings have become more dynamic since the refresh, Swan says, with senior managers also invited in to address members directly.

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