How Mid-Market Companies Can Recruit a First-Class CTO

Ambitious mid-market or externally funded start-ups are increasingly investing in custom software. They want to seize new opportunities, to disrupt their markets, and to amplify their value.

This is driving the requirement for more commercially focused, flexible, experienced Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). Recruiter Martin Davis spoke to Graeme Freeman, Co-Founder and Director of Freeman Clarke, to find out what CTOs are, and why so many mid-market businesses require them.

Graeme Freeman: So, Martin, can we just start by defining what a CTO does in the mid-market?
Martin Davis: Well, the role varies a lot depending on what the company needs. But the key point is that a high-quality CTO is more than just the person who is accountable for the delivery of the tech. Of course that’s vital, but a proper CTO is widely experienced in business and new ventures and properly contributes on an executive level.

GF: So is this an internally facing role?
MD: Well again, that depends upon what the company needs. Sometimes it’s all about setting strategy and leading software development. A lot of time may be spent dealing with external suppliers. The CTO may negotiate with suppliers, partners or large customers if necessary.
But, importantly, a CTO should be someone who lends credibility to the venture. For example, if there are investors or bankers, the CTO has an important role in liaising with them. He or she needs to understand how they think and work.

GF: Why is it getting harder to find CTOs?
Martin Davis: It’s very hard to find great technicians who are also leaders and tuned into business and commercial issues. The market for good people is always very tight, but it’s getting more difficult because demand from companies, large and small, is increasing.
Areas like fintech, proptech, healthtech and edutech are expanding and sucking up lots of great people. And all kinds of businesses are investing in custom software to separate themselves from the market.

GF: So what options do business leaders in the mid-market have?
Martin Davis: There are really only three ways forward.
Option one is go to the market and recruit someone. This is expensive — of course agents or headhunters charge a very large fee, and the truth is it often goes wrong, because it’s very difficult to assess competence and technical talent. You have to ask yourself whether the best people are available on the market in this way.

Alternatively, companies use interim hires. But they are really just hired-guns, and their commitment lasts until they get a call offering them a higher day-rate. Their flexibility is very limited, if there is any lull or hiatus then they will move on.

But our offer is unique. We have built a team of outstanding people, and they work for our clients on a flexible part-time (we call it “fractional”) basis. So they can be heavily involved during busy periods, and when things are quieter, they can reduce their involvement. They all have first-class records, they’ve seen it and done it, and we have tested and screened their experience. For a CTO that can help a company grow, to work in that company’s best interest and not someone else’s, the best option is Freeman Clarke.

You may also find our ideas on CTOs for software and digital helpful.

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Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.