How to Build Your Executive Dream Team

Jonathan Skogmo, Founder and CEO of Jukin Media, discusses his advice for picking a great senior team.

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By Flamingo Images/Shutterstock
By Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

As an entrepreneur and founder, hand picking a great senior team in your organization is one of the most important decisions you can make. After pouring your life, money, and energy into a company, it’s easy to feel like no one else could possibly dedicate as much or bring close to as much passion to the company as you. However, there comes a time and place when you realize you can’t do it alone and you don’t want to do it alone.

When I look back at ten years of growing Jukin, one moment stands out to me. I had just turned down an acquisition offer and instead decided to scale the business. I had a grand vision in mind and knew it would take beyond my skill set to elevate the company from a small business to a global media company.

I first needed a solid #2 that would compliment me as a leader and assist with the day-to-day operations of the company. I went on a nine-month-long search to find the right person – someone with more experience than me, but also someone who was very different than me. That person was Lee Essner, who serves as our President and Chief Operating Officer. We’ve been working together for nearly six years, and together we’ve built a top notch senior management team. Now, the company has nearly 200 employees with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, and New Delhi. Much of this success is owed to the team that’s been with me along the way.

What are the secrets of making it work? Here is my best advice to hiring a great senior team.

Be Self-Aware: When you are looking to fill a seat at the table, it’s critical to know your own shortcomings within your company and find folks that add value to your strengths and, more importantly, your deficiencies. This self-reflection should begin well before your search so you know what qualities you’re specifically looking for. Begin by objectively evaluating where you want the company to go and what skills it’s going to take to get you there. 

Divide and Conquer: Once you’ve made the decision to bring someone in, allow him or her to be a true leader and involve the team in most major decisions. Also, learn to let go of some of your past responsibilities and delegate tasks to someone who can execute them better than you. Keep yourself focused on what you do best and areas of the business that you’re most passionate about growing. 

Don’t Surround Yourself with YES people:  While you may like the thought of a cheerleading squad agreeing with all your ideas, you need folks that will challenge you and push you to think outside the box and consider all angles. It’s important to challenge each other and have healthy debate. I find that in most cases a good debate leads to the right outcome.

Learn From Your Team: You hired these people because they have a better skill set than you. If you are not constantly learning from them then they don’t deserve a seat at the table. Don’t hire people if you could do their job better. You retain the best talent to do a job you can’t do yourself. Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. The smartest leaders have the uncanny ability to hire people who are much smarter than they are, who will push them through diverse thinking and drive their business forward.”

In today’s fast-paced environment, it’s more important than ever to rely on a strong management team that has good instincts, strong business acumen, and ability to understand industry trends and how to react and capitalize on them. And it all starts with picking the right people to make up your dream team.

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