Five steps to recruiting the right person as your number two

Five steps to recruiting the right person as your number two
Phil Fraser
Phil FraserPhil Fraser

Posted: Thu 9th Sep 2021

As the business owner, you can only do so much. Delegation is an important skill to master to ensure that you don’t end up doing everything. But once your business gets to a certain size, you’ll need to take one of those big ‘next steps’.

One option is to recruit a number two, also known as your second in command, 2iC or chief operating officer. This person won’t be a replacement for you, but someone who can focus on the operation of the business, giving you the space to look at the bigger picture. 

If you’re starting to think about growing your team and getting a second in command on board, where should you start? I’d suggest:

  • Get psychologically ready to let go

  • Start preparing the spec for the new role and your new role

  • Research the marketplace and what others have done

  • Discuss the idea with your team

  • Discuss your proposed plan with a trusted recruitment consultant

If you get it right, recruiting a number two should ease your workload and boost productivity in your business. The following five steps should help you.

Step one: Clarify their roles and responsibilities 

As with any other role you recruit for, start by establishing what your new second in command is going to do. What are their roles and responsibilities? How will they be measured? What will their job title be?

Do this correctly, and some of the responsibilities of your new hire will be things you’re doing now as the business owner. 

Be aware of the following issues as you define the responsibilities of the new role:

  • The parameters of some of the tasks you’ve been doing might be unclear, and they probably aren’t measured. In order to pass them on successfully, you need to clarify them and make them measurable. 

  • Now that you aren’t doing those roles, what are you going to do? Make sure that you have clear roles and responsibilities, and that you’re not stepping on your new hire’s toes by either continuing to do them, or butting in when they’re getting on with them. Clear demarcation of tasks will avoid a lot of stress. 

  • You will now have new roles to perform in managing, motivating, developing and measuring your new hire so factor these into your workload.

Step two: Set up the recruitment process

This role is different to any other position that you’ll recruit for. Your new hire will become the public face of your business, so it needs to be someone you can discuss the nuts and bolts and underbelly of your business with. But in addition, and probably most importantly, it has to be someone you can get on with; someone you ‘click’ with.

So, armed with all of the above, when I went through this process I engaged a local specialist recruitment agency. But rather than just send over the job spec and wait, I spent time talking to them about what I needed. This ensured that we only spoke to potential candidates who matched our brief – not only on skillset, but perhaps more importantly, on their character.

Step three: Hold pre-interview interviews

The person, and how you click with them, is so important to the role, so inviting your candidates to a pre-interview interview can be time well spent. 

What exactly is a pre-interview interview? I explained to my recruitment agency that I wanted to meet the real person first rather than the ‘interview’ person. So I arranged to meet each candidate for a coffee for an informal chat before we got to the interview stage.

This approach works well because there’s no CV, you have coffee in a neutral venue and it’s labelled as ‘just a chat’. For me, every single candidate dropped their guard. I was impressed at how well this worked as a filter for potential candidates and would recommend it to anyone recruiting a senior role, particularly where fit is important. 

Step four: Run the formal interview process

It can be tricky to get the best out of candidates in formal interviews. A useful approach is to go into interview one asking the question, could they do the job? And in interview two, ask yourself, how would they do the job?

  • First interviews usually involve running through the candidate’s CV and talking through their experiences to see if they could do the job. 

  • At the second interview, delve deeper and ask your shortlisted candidates to prepare a presentation to show how they would do the role if they were successful. For example, this could include their strategy on increasing and expanding revenue streams and a plan for how they would spend their first 60 days in their new role. 

Step five: Spend time on onboarding and integrating your new hire

More than any other hire that you make in your business, how you bring this person into the business is vitally important.

Yes of course, the person’s desk needs to be there, and you need to do your usual on-boarding process, but this one is very different. On one hand you’re passing over the reins of the business and showing the team how important this person will be, and on the other hand you have to hold their hand to a degree, easing them into the business and the new role. 

The work that you did in speccing out their exact roles and responsibilities now comes into play. You should have clear parameters both for them and you, but also the team. Without doubt, your team will be thinking ‘who is this new person?’ and sitting back waiting for them to prove themselves.

As the leader of your business, you have to show your team that your new hire has your backing and support. Your actions will send a message to the rest of the company. When an employee comes to you with a problem, tell them to ask your number two instead. If you treat them like a key player in the business then everyone else will soon follow.

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Phil Fraser
Phil FraserPhil Fraser
Phil went from a kitchen table start up, with no investment, all the way to multi-million pound sale to a PLC 18 years later. He’s travelled the full SME business journey. Phil now works with ambitious SME-owners as a Business Sounding Board (think somewhere between Business Coach, Business Mentor, and ‘personal NED’). In simple terms, he’s ‘a pair of ears and an extra pair eyes’ for SME Owners helping them to be better at what they do. The key time most Business Owners look for out side help is when they reach a ‘next stage/step up’ point in their business journey. That’s where Phil comes in. It doesn’t need to be ‘lonely at the top’. As a Business Sounding Board, he gives SME Owners the time & space to regularly discuss their challenges and opportunities, with no sense of judgement or bias, and in complete confidence. This allows them to explore their options in full, culminating with a list of issues to address/clarify, a clear target in mind, a roadmap to success, and a renewed enthusiasm and confidence for the challenges ahead. Phil is also a volunteer with a number of organisations including The Prince's Trust and Young Enterprise, and is an active Angel Investor. He also mentors start-up businesses.

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