You are leading the drive into the future: a new sustainable economy. You are building a business. But you are not alone, although sometimes it might feel like it. You need a strong team. Otherwise the burden on you and your personal life can be too much.

Other people have made the transition too. But as the transition grows, more and more people will be needed. Each time there will come a point where someone has to give them a job in a new industry. And you may have to consider people who do not have a track record in your industry.

So how do you make sure you get the best? You will need to be rigorous in your assessment and understanding of which skills are transferrable. But first you need to engage with them. This means reaching out. A call, an email or an introduction, or a chance meeting at an event comes first. Then a further conversation, where you talk in more detail about what you are trying to do, and what you are looking for.

This may work. If it doesn’t you need to be more systematic. Once you have identified all the people who may be able to do the job, reach out to them. This might mean sending hundreds of messages. Or it might mean a targeted group. First a simple note, voicemail or message with their assistant. Say who you are and what you are looking for in a sentence or two, with invitation to discuss. Say that if they are not interested, you would like to ask them their advice.

Then share some more specific details: a job description, a website link. This will give them the opportunity to assess whether it is something worth discussing. Once you have them engaged you can start to make assessments of who is right for you. And they can see whether it is right for them. Make sure this is all recorded in detail, with all the approach dates, and all the responses. This is your market research, your guide to understanding who the right people are for you.

For the people who aren’t interested, try to speak to them anyway, if they are willing. Explain who you are and what you are trying to achieve. They will help you to understand who the best people in the market are, and the best places to find them. Sometimes there will be companies who are in distress where they suggest you look. Or they may know someone who is looking for something new.  Maybe someone who sounds like the perfect fit for you.

This is the key. What they are going to be most interested in is you. What it would be like to work with you. What opportunities you can give them to grow and develop. How likely they think you are to succeed. What contribution you need them to make. Try not to take it personally if they say no. Ask them for their advice. You may need to talk to a large number of people before you find out who is really right for you. And it may not be whom you thought it was when you started.

A Narrow Focus

When Stanislas was appointed to lead an Environmental business in Engineering, Procurement and Construction, he needed someone to lead sales for him. Without them he would not be able to be successful. It was an anxious time. So we discussed it and made a plan.

There was a very small pool of people who had the expertise in the UK Energy from Waste market. These were people who had a track record of winning bids from public tenders. We quickly identified the ten or twenty people who had done it and made initial approaches.

In this situation this is better done through a direct call as well as an email. You can give them a very brief overview. Then further details can be shared in conversation or in email. As it was such a tight knit industry almost all of them were interested in to finding out more. We went through a detailed process of discussion of the opportunity. We explained where Stanislas was looking to lead the business.

They had particular characteristics as a French family owned business, which gave certain advantages and potential pitfalls. There would not be many places for people to advance to in their career. We needed someone who would be happy doing this job for a while.  But they would have a very significant role within the business.  They had the opportunity to drive the business forward without much interference.

Speaking French would be an advantage and there were not many people in the UK market who could. So we had a pretty narrow group of people who met these tight criteria. The candidates knew this. So there was a detailed process of negotiation with the two or three people we took to the later stages.

In the end they hired a German woman based in Switzerland. She had a very strong track record in the UK with the major player in the sector. Stanislas was delighted and relieved. He knew they would be successful together.

The Transition in Utilities

I had been working with a major utility company for years. They were looking to transition their business into sustainability. There were lots of things they could do with their residential customer base, around energy efficiency and renewable sources. But the big win in the short term was going to be in working with businesses.

They could help them to generate their own power on site through renewables and make major efficiency savings. They had a massive sales force and strong relationships. Jorge had been appointed to lead this business. It was his first real opportunity to lead a substantial business. So he needed a very strong team around him to ensure he made a success of it. It was an anxious time for him.

The organization had all the skills in house to introduce these services. It was making acquisitions of cutting edge technology businesses to add to this. What Jorge needed was someone to help him take these services to market. They already had the sales force and the relationships.  That meant he needed someone who knew marketing and products.

The existing industry in this area was fragmented and rather old-fashioned. Distributed generation often meant combined heat and power from fossil fuel sources. Although it used more of the energy generated, it still had a heavy carbon footprint. On the renewables side they were one of the first movers from the blue chip world, and most of the other players were much smaller.

So we needed someone with experience of a blue chip firm that was used to innovation in the corporate services market. This could be IT, telecoms, property, facilities, or other forms of outsourcing. We found out who all the senior marketing people were in those businesses, and reached out to them. We got a strong response and shared some basic information with them.

We had had extensive discussions within the existing industry. There were very few people there who had the blue chip background necessary. We had a strong response from the other corporate services providers. It was just a question of determining who would make the easiest transition into sustainability. We talked in more detail and interviewed 10-15 people. Jorge met five.

The person he ended up choosing was not one of the people we had initially approached. He was in a large telecoms company, and he had our details passed on to him by someone else we had spoken to. He was looking for something new. Which shows the importance of sharing information widely and asking for recommendations.

This person was perfect. He was based in the same region, and had led B2B marketing and product management for a blue chip telco. We had a disciplined process of reaching out to people and gaining intelligence from those who were not interested. This gave us the market data we required to understand who were the best people for Jorge’s team. The result was highly successful and they continue to lead the business from strength to strength.

The Key to Successful Engagement

The first stage in the process is to be systematic and creative about identifying all the places that you might find the right people for you. The second stage is to reach out to them. This can be done in a fairly simple way by an introduction, a call or an email. Then share some basic information about the job and the company.

Then you can get down to what the discussion is really about. How you and they might work together. They are going to be interested in you as much as in the company and the niche. Whether you will be able to work well together with you. If what you are trying to achieve is realistic and will give them the opportunity to move forward in their career.

It is a straightforward process but it requires time and effort. Enter your email to receive my complete guide to an alpha sustainability team to find out more.  Thank you for reading this and please share it with anyone else you think might benefit. Thank you and good luck!