How Can a Mid-Market Business Recruit a CTO?

Ambitious mid-market or externally funded start-up businesses are increasingly investing in custom software. Very simply they want to seize new opportunities, to disrupt their markets, and to amplify their value.

This is driving the requirement for more commercially focussed, flexible, experienced CTOs (Chief Technology Officers) who can make a real difference. I recently had a discussion with Graeme Freeman (Co-Founder and Director of Freeman Clarke) about who CTOs are and why so many mid-market businesses are requiring them – below is the summary of our conversation:

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 technology. Of course that’s vital, but a proper CTO is widely experienced in business and new ventures and properly contributes to the Board.

Graeme Freeman: So is this an internally facing role?

Martin Davis: Well again that depends 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.

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.

The CTO may negotiate with suppliers, partners or large customers if necessary.

Graeme Freeman: Why is it getting harder to find CTOs?

Martin Davis: Great technicians who are also leaders and are tuned into business and commercial issues are very hard to find. 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.

The UK is a world-leader in developing new technology-based ideas in many industries and great technology leaders are in demand.

Graeme Freeman: So what options do business leaders in the mid-market have?

Martin Davis: There are really only 3 ways forward.

Option one is go to the market and recruit someone. This is expensive – of course agents or head-hunters charge a very large fee, and the truth is it often goes wrong because it’s very difficult to assess competence and technical talent. And partly because you have to ask yourself whether the best people are available on the market in this way.

Alternatively, companies use interims 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 expect to 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.

They have the backing of our full team, we are completely independent of any suppliers and this is all we do.

Over the coming weeks we are creating a series of content pieces about CTOs, their role, how to find and recruit  them and the invaluable benefits they provide to a business. All of which can be found on our CTO Knowledge Centre page here.