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Client Advice

How to build an executive team for tech companies scaling up

By Peter Wharton

As small and mid-sized tech companies start scaling up their business the need to assemble a top-class executive team is crucial to its success. A company’s quality of leadership just simply cannot be overstated and is more important than ever. 
Because of intense competition and a continued stuttering global economy, very single part of an organisation has to be accountable and must be firing on all cylinders. No weak links can be permitted so assembling a top-class executive team for a tech scale-up company is crucial for its success.

Working with scale-up companies in recruiting critical hires, here are steps I advise you to consider:

First, define clearly your company's vision, goals and especially the culture i.e. what makes “us”. This will help you identify the specific skills, expertise and character you need in your executive team.

Then identify key positions required over a timeline of five years or so.  Depending on the stage of your company and financial position now, the team requirements, and also executive capabilities will not be the same as in two years where the priority will be on establishing the right structure to support expanded priorities and then in five years in how to simplify an increasing complex organisation.  Horses for courses as we say in the UK. You will need to focus at any given time on hiring for what you want to accomplish in the 18 months or so.


A typical order in building the team would be:

  1. CEO
  2. CTO and CFO
  3. Sales and Marketing Directors
  4. HR Management
  5. Product Management
  6. VP Engineering
  7. Customer Success Director


Typically first executive priorities will be the CTO to define product technology vision and manage the engineering team and the CFO for obvious reasons, followed by a Director of Sales and a Director of Marketing  - though this could initially be one role to drive business momentum.

The next step will usually be HR management, taking over the HR functions usually shared previously by the CEO and CFO. There will be a high level of recruitment which not only means managing the search, probably with external resources, but also employee retention and engagement and onboarding. Next stage will be product management to develop the product improve and extend the product offering.

The final two roles will be a VP of Engineering to focus on product development and much later when the customer base is large enough a director of customer success to retain and expand existing accounts.

When hiring for these roles, particularly for sales, marketing and product management look for industry expertise: Seek executives with industry experience and deep domain knowledge. Look for individuals who have successfully scaled companies, tackled similar challenges, and understand the specific dynamics of your industry.

Leverage your professional network and industry contacts, to find potential candidates where possible but also consider partnering with the best executive search firms specialising in your industry. Agencies like ours can tap into their extensive networks and use their expertise to find top-level talent suited for your company quickly and efficiently.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, don’t hesitate to reach out to contact me at [email protected].

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