004 - What to look for in your CTO?


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By Torben Anderson, Torben Anderson: Tech strategy, and CTO. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

What to look for in your CTO?

As a business owner, you need to take control in order to grow. One of the most important ways of doing this is to make sure your leadership team is strong, adaptable and, crucially, scaleable.

A Chief Technology officer (CTO) is at the heart of this and will shape the direction of the business, both now and in the future. They need to appreciate the core values and vision of the business, but they also have to understand you.

In my blog post and podcast last week I defined CTO for you. Go ahead and have a look if you haven’t done so already by clicking here.

A CTO is someone who gets your business vision and then has the skills, knowledge and experience to realise and act on that, through a strong technology strategy.

For many though this isn’t always the case, especially when you’re in the first few years of business.

What situation are you in right now?

1. Your CTO is your co-founder

This person will often be someone that you started the business with. They will have a background in technology, have a good understanding of where your business is going, and will grow with you as the business scales.

2. You want more from your CTO

There’s already a CTO in place and the business is growing well. They may have an equity stake, but you’re at the stage where you’re expecting more from them. You’re not sure if this is the right person to move forward with your business vision.

3. No CTO

If you’re a start-up, it’s often the case that you don’t have a CTO at this time. You will be actively trying to find one and will have someone within your small team who is trying to do the work of a CTO on a daily basis. In essence, you’re looking to fill this role in order to move the business forward.

Although CTO is one title, there are many different interpretations of the role. Each business and business owner will require a different approach, based on personality, business model and the overall vision.

The 4 types of CTO

The Founder CTO

This is someone who has been brought onto the team early when the business was initially set up. The role will typically involve long hours in order to get the business up and running and established. It’s a fast-paced, ever changing role to gain stability.

The ‘I Can Do It All’ CTO

This will be someone who is a jack-of-all-trades who was potentially offered equity as part of the role. They will have joined a little further down the line and will be doing great things in a team of around a dozen. You know there’s alignment there, but you’re struggling to send them in a particular direction and are unsure of whether they fit into future expansion plans.

The Silent Operator CTO

This person is very good at listening to your goals and vision and knows how to implement ideas to get things done. This type of CTO is the person you are looking for as you scale upwards of 10 people.

The Strategic CTO

Having had lots of exposure to managing projects and teams, this person could have risen through the ranks and may have an equity stake. They’ve proven themselves to be knowledgeable and have the experience to back it up.

How to hire well

There’s no set formula for hiring but what you need to focus on is that feeling of whether the potential CTO understands you, your vision and can then link that to a tech plan and strategy to move your business forward. My blog post on how to develop a tech plan is very useful reading on this. You can find it here.

Equity often gets offered as part of a CTO role, but you must be aware of the limitations that this can bring. If you lock someone in with an equity stake, you need to be certain that this is a person that can scale with you and the business. As you grow, you will take on all kinds of different people with varying skillsets and experiences. You need to be sure that this person will be able to align with teams and realise your vision.

My advice? Think ahead, make the right decisions and don’t lock yourself in.

Please go ahead and let me know what you think on our Facebook group. I go-live each week.

23 episodes