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How healthcare startups can snag big business execs

on June 15, 2011 Source: Kauffman Foundation

How do you land a big fish?

You know – the kind of manager who knows how to turn your company’s bottom line from red ink to black?

The best way to land a top executive for your healthcare company is to cast your line in the deep waters where talent resides – at big, Fortune 500-type companies.

If you’re not hiring now, chances are your competitors are. According to Manta, a Columbus, Ohio, small business consultancy, 57 percent of U.S. small businesses say they will hire in 2011. The Manta report was released on June 7.

More tellingly, the Manta study says that small business owners say their biggest challenge is to hire “top candidates.” About one quarter of survey respondents say that larger firms offer higher salaries, making it tough to compete financially for top talent. Small business owners also tell Manta that big executives don’t see any room for advancement at smaller companies – and thus are more difficult to hire.

How can your small healthcare business persuade top managers to come aboard? Try these tips:

  • Start with time-honored strategies – Old-fashioned networking is the best way to start your search for top talent. Manta says that 59 percent of business owners will tell colleagues that they’re looking to hire managers, while 41 percent say they will seek direct referrals from current employees.
  • Give yourself measurable objectives – Aim for concrete goals during your management search. For example, ask recent hires for the names of three of the smartest managers they know. Pretty soon, you’ll have a dozen or more names you can contact. Also, don’t hesitate to ask customers and other business contacts – they usually have a good pipeline to good talent. For instance, ask your accountant if he or she knows any executives with good CFO credentials.
  • Use recruiters – Corporate recruiters are another good pipeline into big companies. Let’s face it, recruiting is a real gut check, and you’ll want someone at your side with experience dealing with big business executives. Make sure to carefully screen a potential recruiter. Focus on the recruiter’s track record. Who have they hired? What’s their placement rate? If a recent search didn’t pan out for a recruiter, what went wrong?
  • Make a strong case – In this sour economy, even successful managers are wary about making what they deem to be any risky moves. Help them overcome any anxiety about coming to work for you by emphasizing how you build relationships at your company (a big concern with top managers.) Also, emphasize a top candidate’s strengths, and explain to him or her how those strengths will mesh with your company’s business culture. While compensation is obviously a priority, relationships and culture are a big deal with Fortune 500-level managers.
  • Leverage your small company’s nimbleness – Big companies typically don’t have the flexibility and creativity that most managers want. So use your company’s nimbleness and offer candidates benefits that big companies usually don’t, like flex-time and telecommuting opportunities. Also, offer more responsibility and decision-making opportunities – use the “big fish in a small pond” theme to maximum effect.


Landing that big fish requires knowing where the best fish live, then using the right bait to pull them aboard. The tips listed above should get your “top talent” campaign off to a great start.

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