I asked a few simple questions to our customers and their answers surprised me.
After looking at some data from the first half of 2023, I noticed that internal leads at Hunt Club and new searches started around ‘replacing a CEO,’ have grown 130% and 90% respectively year over year.
I began to think through how murky and complex the last 12 months really have been for the venture, PE, and growth equity community and their portcos, and how difficult it’s been to answer the question “How are we actually doing?” and “How well should we be doing?”
Unpacking this with Customer Insights
I wanted to better understand the dynamic unfolding, so I started talking to a few dozen of our customers. The total subset was about 30 ranging from Series A companies to post-IPO. All were tech or tech-enabled, venture or PE-backed (currently or at one point). I asked them a few simple questions:
- How do you think you’re doing as CEO?
- How do you think your leadership team is doing?
- What % of your revenue impact is due to market conditions versus team performance?
- What % of your revenue impact is due to your product?
- What % of your leadership team knows the ROI of every hire?
- What % of your leadership team has an ROI thesis around hiring?
The answers were ALL over the board as we reflected on operating challenges during the last 12 months.
- Only 40% of CEOs thought they were doing a good job. ~15% felt they were doing fine. ~15% were poor. And 30% had no clue. No clue? That means that 30% of the field didn’t have a “True north” on what performance actually looks like in this environment.
- Not a single leader I spoke to felt 100% unified and comfortable with their leadership teams right now. Over 70% of CEOs were currently evaluating their GTM organization and cited revenue performance, lack of predictability, and culture degradation as the primary drivers. 90% were evaluating at least 2+ key leadership teammates and their ability to succeed in this environment.
- 80% believed that the market conditions had impacted their H1 revenue performance.
- ~70% of leaders believed that their product had “Little to do” with revenue impact, while ~30% believed they rode the tailwinds of the last few years and may have created something that isn’t “sustainable” or a “Must have” to customers.
- And finally, CEOs thought only about 40% of their leadership team understood the business impact and ROI of the hires they’re making and roughly the same % had a business case / ROI thesis around every new addition.
Summarizing and Solving the Above
It’s a scary thought to think that 30% of CEOs fall into a bucket of not knowing how they’re performing.
If founders and CEOs don't have a true north right now on what performance is, and how to evaluate it, it’s impossible to align an organization, hold your leaders accountable or even begin. It makes total sense why boards, investors, and stakeholders are losing faith in their CEOs., so much so that Google search volumes are spiking!
If your leaders don’t have tightly defined criteria on allocating capital across both headcount decisions and the business in general right now, it’s critical you start building that muscle today as “Cheap money” is a long way away from coming back (and may never again.. which may be a good thing!).
Every single hire needs to be rooted in some ROI thesis and needs to be held accountable for that performance.
Finally, I think we’ll see a ton of change in leadership and frontline management in the GTM organization over the next 12 months.
From my many conversations with industry leaders and founders, I realized that this shift to hiring based on ROI and new GTM strategies is already happening in a lot of places. As companies are re-evaluating and topgrading their leadership teams, I expect we’ll see a new wave of CEOs and founders.
Here’s a list of relevant articles to help you navigate changing leadership teams and growing companies:
- Founder vs. CEO: What’s the Difference?
- CEO vs. Owner: What’s the Difference?
- How to Conduct a Successful CEO Search: 7 Best Practices to Follow
- How To Optimize Your CEO Recruiting Process
- 5 Fundamentals to Leading a Startup from G2’s Founder and CEO
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