It is certainly lonely at the top. You have a great idea, you have done your research, you have started to sell, but you can't possibly know and do everything to make a long-term success of your business.
Do bear in mind there isn't one Silicon Valley founder who did it all. They worked with a team and in particular, a reliable 2nd in command. A solid person in the background who was literally the wind beneath their winds.
But I do not want to lose my vision...
It will take a while to understand what your vision is. As you research and trail your idea. You will get a variety of feedback. You will fine-tune - your product, your customer base, etc. As you go through this journey (at your own pace, make sure you are enjoying and learning throughout this phase) a time will come when you realise, where your true strengths lie. Often these can be unexpected skills.
However, before even starting to consider your 2nd in command, don't just opt for someone who is a friend or a consultant. Get a piece of paper (or any medium) and write down your brand vision. Basically, how are you going to get there (the plan)?
1. Take a step back and ask yourself honestly, what from that list can you manage?
2. Then assess, if any gaps can be outsourced, e.g. bookkeeping, graphic design, coding/web design, legal advice, etc.
3. What skills are lacking that you will need to have in-house such as - previous experience launching a new product, business school training (MBAs), managing/ hiring a team, having raised investment, developing a go-to-market sales strategy, working with manufacturers, etc?
4. Be clear what of these skills/attributes are needed short term versus long term. You might not need a sales skillset until you get your product right and have relative health and safety sign-offs, patents filed, etc.
Until you have the final version of your product ready for market, you might be confusing the messaging, as there could be several configuration changes which can be frustrating for sales-focused people.
5. Create a job spec with core skills and nice-to-haves (the bonus skills). In a way at the start, your second in command is similar to your business +1. Not necessarily a co-founders, but a trusted partner.
Point 3 might end up that you need 2 people. One might be an external consultant for short-term tasks. Then, the time will come when you need to bring someone in that you can trust to be there for you long term.
Don't be Goldilocks
You will drive yourself mad looking for perfection. It does not exist. People are a mix of so many skills, personality traits, and experiences that the right person might be somewhere else, or unwilling to work for less money. So you need to be able to compromise and be open to having a bit of a revolving door. Call it business dating.
As such, you may work with one person for 6-8 months until you get an investor. That person might be suitable to stay on, but you might find they want to move on or realise you need more specialised experience for the next phase of your business - that all-important, go-to-market strategist. Either way, be prepared to change people to keep your vision on track.
Yes, have mentors, but they are very different from a 2nd in command. A mentor/coach can offer an opinion, but you don't have to take it. A 2nd in command will need to make decisions. You can't be available all the time. So you have to trust this person with your vision. As well as protect yourself from them taking over.
Could it be an investor?
You may want to grow organically and therefore plan to sell up one day and not work with investors. But if you are planning to get an investor, consider how they can take on some of these tasks and responsibilities. They may become your 2nd in command if the stars align. However, most investors have a few interests and they may be more like an interim person for a month or two while you interview a more hands-on number 2.
How to find them
Well that is trickier. But without a job description, you will struggle to keep focused on what you need when searching - note:
- You may get distracted by a charismatic 'coach'. Be careful:)
- Age is not a guarantee of experience, but don't blindly assume someone over a certain age won't be a good fit.
- Have a chat with some recruiters to get their feedback/advice.
- It might be that you do a combination of networking, advertising on your website/founder forums, and a recruiter.
- As with all relationships, don't hide them in the shadows. Give credit and appreciate that they had a role to play in the company's success. Otherwise, you will build resentment. As you employ more people, how you treat your number 2, says a lot about the culture you are building.
- Offering shares is not that straightforward, so avoid that conversation for 6 months. Or until you assess if this is a person you can trust and rely on.