Who’s Your Mike?

Kurt Wilkin

Mike is a great guy. He’s your standard, trustworthy, fun-to-have-a-beer-with, great guy. You probably went to college with Mike. Or maybe he and your Co-Founder or CTO are childhood friends, attend the same church, or play golf together. Either way, Mike goes to work for his buddies because his buddies need someone they can trust.

Mike took a few Accounting courses in college. He’s a quick study, familiarizes himself with QuickBooks™ and he becomes the company’s bookkeeper. In a few years, he is promoted to controller, since that’s the next logical title, plus it looks great on a business card.

The company is growing gangbusters because you timed the market right and customers love your product. As the company grows, so does Mike’s title and responsibility, and he is soon promoted to CFO. After all, he is loyal and trusted, he works long hours, he appears to be able to balance debits and credits, and he does eventually get the books closed.

Before you know it, the company is growing so fast it’s hard to keep up. Mike is now trying to negotiate a $20 million credit facility with the bank or the acquisition of a competitor or maybe the filing of an S-1 because you want to do an IPO and “go public”. Mike is overwhelmed and thinks that he may be in over his head, but he doesn’t want to admit this or let his buddy down, so he works harder, clocking in longer days.

Eventually, however, things start breaking because the bubblegum and duct tape holding everything together begins to give way. Mike never had the skills or experience to manage those kinds of CFO responsibilities, no matter how hard-working, loyal, or trustworthy he is.

This example, or something very similar may sound crazy but it happens more often than you would expect with high-growth companies. Somebody who is loyal to the CEO, or who has been with the company a long time, finds themselves in way over his or her head.

Sometimes, leadership recognizes the situation and transitions the employee to an individual contributor role, to another department or even out of the company. In these instances, while Mike’s feelings may be hurt or his ego bruised, he is often relieved to reduce his responsibilities because he was feeling so overwhelmed.

Other times, the situation continues when the CEO feels stuck between risking the friendship and risking the business and doesn’t want to make a tough decision. This leads to bigger problems for the business and eventually the situation comes to a head. When the CEO eventually makes the tough call, I see two consistent themes: (1) they wish they had done it sooner and (2) everyone else on their team knew it had to happen – and wish it had happened sooner.

Do you have a Mike? Is there someone on your team that the company has outgrown? A well-intentioned team member who is unintentionally holding you and your company back?

What if you could shift back into growth mode with someone on your team who could help you double or triple the size of company? Someone who has experience negotiating those multi-million dollar bank loans or merger and acquisition opportunities?

What if you had someone with the skills and expertise to move the company forward?

Could you grow faster? Could you grow more efficiently? Could you scale?

These are the hard, but necessary, questions to ask of yourself and your team if you want to make it to the next level. We know how difficult it can be, but we also understand how critical it is to have the right talent in place if you want to grow. Part of our mission at HireBetter is to help you ask and answer those tough questions that can bring about authentic, meaningful change.

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