In 2003, sisters Jenny and Jane DeLaney launched a business that created customized meal plans and shopping lists for subscribers. The concept caught on, and the company grew quickly. When they’d accrued 100,000+ customers, the DeLaneys faced competition and a looming plateau.

Jane said, “I was at a point where I needed to bring in a key person for the betterment of the company because I knew the vision I had for it was not going to be realized with us doing things the same way.” The sisters hired a CEO, and revenue increased 50 percent. They had successfully avoided the Founder’s Cap.

Hiring key personnel can prevent, or launch a company past, the Great Small Business Plateau. A strategic approach to personnel can slingshots a company into growth mode.

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Small businesses can typically only take on one or two key personnel out of the gate. It is a major investment – and a tremendous leap for the founder. How can a CEO ensure they’re making a decision that truly “betters” the company? Here are some best practices to follow:


  1. Hire Someone Because He/She Happens To Be There

    Someone shows up and seems too good to be true. He/she exhibit talent, skill, and enthusiasm! You hire him, and he may end up doing some good for you. Or not. It’s a crapshoot because he wasn’t chosen strategically for the pillar he could elevate within the company. Being talented, skilled, and available does not suffice.

  2. Hire Someone To Fill The Role You Like Least

    You exhibit strength in a number of areas of your business, but only adequate competence on the technology side. If an IT department can mobilize the possibilities for your company, it could be a logical area of personnel to develop. If you just hire someone to take over an area you don’t like, it wont help restart growth.


  1. Consider The ROI

    Which area would provide the most return on this investment? Look at which set of competencies would move the business forward, and generate enough revenue to hire another key person.

  2. Think About Which Area Is Currently Weakest

    On the other side, you might want to consider which functions are operating inefficiently, costing you the most time and money, or present the biggest barriers to growth.

  3. Stay The Course

    What if you hire someone who leaves, who does not provide the return you were hoping for, who was, for whatever reason, the wrong hire? Do not abandon the effort. The DeLaneys got the right fit the first time; most businesses are not so lucky. Try again, and be smart about your motivations for hiring and determining what a candidate brings to the table.

Hiring key personnel can slingshot your business off the Small Business Plateau. Develop a sound strategy, prioritize your hiring, and remain committed to that approach.