Invest in Scale-Up Talent

2017 was the best year on record for investment into ambitious, high growth firms. The investment for scale-ups increased significantly and the appetite from large foreign investors showed no sign of slowing – according to Beauhurst’s “The Deal”.

Clearly, the financial support is there for companies to grow. However, this creates a strong demand for leaders with the expertise to scale a business effectively, creating an increasingly competitive landscape for small companies to look for talent.

It is, therefore, becoming increasingly important to prioritise how you attract, secure and retain key hires in this environment. Particularly as compromising on the people you bring in at this critical stage can have a far-reaching impact. We believe if companies are to be successful in their scale-up ambitions they should look to recruit for the business they want to be – not the business they are today.

This requires careful thought about your strategy and how it aligns with the team – identifying the gaps and potential changes you may need to make. This may sound obvious but, with demands for time elsewhere (such as fundraising) and a lack of HR support, it is often overlooked. Companies focus too much on the appointment itself being the answer, rather than the difference the right person could make.

A robust talent strategy that supports growth objectives is intrinsic to ensuring you get the best people in at the right time. So, what are the key points to consider when strengthening the team?

Mind the Gap – Scoping Out The Role

If the gap you are trying to fill is too big, it is unlikely you will find someone with the required breadth of skill/experience – or they will be used to leading a large team and functional heads underneath them. In which case, if you don’t already have that structure in place, you will need to assess whether this is something you can support in time or whether the role is better divided up. Conversely, If the gap is too small and you are looking for a heavy hitter, then the remit might be too narrow to attract them.

Proposition – Be Bold!

Consider your proposition, not just from a financial perspective, but the scope of remit, business critical nature of the role, the dynamics of the board/senior team, and perceived risk. Do you have global ambitions – or are you looking for an early exit? This will appeal to different types of individuals. How your technology will change the world/disrupt markets will also play a role in rousing interest. Tailoring your conversation to the individual, based on their motivations and aspirations will make the proposition even more powerful.

The Courtship

Having a clear and structured interview process is important but preparing to go the extra mile for the right candidate can make all the difference. We were recruiting an executive level role for a company and the preferred candidate was considering another opportunity alongside it. We realised how important his family would be in deciding whether he took the job or not so the CEO and his wife travelled down to take the candidate and his wife out to dinner. This was a huge factor in the candidate eventually accepting.

Good candidates will want to undertake their own due diligence. How transparent and open you can be (within the realms of what can be disclosed) can have a strong bearing on how a candidate feels about the opportunity. It also gives them an insight into the company culture and how the executives operate and share information.


Many companies assume that their compensation structure is fit for purpose, but this may not have changed for a long time or an accurate reflection of where the business is today (let alone where it plans to be).

For obvious reasons this can be inhibitive to bringing in new hires but also for retaining and motivating the talent you have got. Regular benchmarking exercises, in line with funding rounds, are important and it is helpful to do this before looking to bring on any key talent, rather than running the risk of losing a preferred candidate by stalling negotiations whilst you undergo a remuneration review process.

For more information, please see our remuneration report