As a startup or early stage company, you need people who can juggle a lot of different responsibilities. The coffee, the spreadsheets, and the product development aren’t going to take care of themselves, right? But at a certain point, you need to go from the company that prides itself on the people who “wear many hats” to the company that gets stuff done.

Generalist employees have a basic knowledge of a variety of different roles. They know a little bit about a lot of things. On the other hand, specialists are highly skilled at one responsibility. They might be an SEO stackhats2-620x350guru, but aren’t as well-versed in sales or support. So how do you know when to stop hiring generalists and start hiring people to tackle specific jobs/roles? Here are four tips:

1. You have one person doing twelve things. In the early stage of our company, the only marketing person was me. We were trying to execute on a ton of different projects, including webinars, email marketing, SEO, pay-per-click, and contests. The list ran on and on. One day, we wrote every marketing project on a whiteboard. There were 12 projects. Twelve! One person was trying to execute and be successful with 12 different things. We quickly realized that it wasn’t possible for one person to work on so many projects at once. When generalists cover several different areas, they cannot be expected to execute perfectly on them all.

2. You stop accomplishing things. You know what happens when you have one person trying to do everything under the sun? Productivity suffers. Projects stop getting accomplished. Sure, you and your team can dream up a hundred different things to do, but who’s actually going to make them happen? When you are wearing many hats, things seem to be in a constant state of “almost done.” When you start to notice this trend, it’s time to hire more specialized employees.

3. You stop measuring. One of the main reasons, I think, that you should start hiring specialists is because of measurement. One thing worse than not getting things done is not knowing the results. How is the email campaign going? Are people using our new features? Is that spinning orange starburst CTA really driving customers to buy?

The problem with a team of generalists is that they move from one project to the next. Stopping to evaluate success or failure falls to the wayside in favor of the next big project. If you have a team of generalists, stop and ask yourself how many “set it and forget it” campaigns you have running right now. My guess is a few. By hiring a specialist, someone owns the project from start to finish. That means owning the data and the results, reporting on them, and tweaking them to make them better.

4. Your CEO is answering support requests. I say this one kind of tongue in cheek. Our CEO still answers his fair share of support requests, but it’s not how leadership should be spending their time. Yes, absolutely, when you are a small team, everyone needs to answer phones, ship orders, and answer customer calls. But, there comes a point in your business when you need to have someone setting visions, planning strategies, and guiding a team. Famed venture capitalist Fred Wilson once wrote a post on the role of the CEO. Here is a quote from the post:

“A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”

CEOs and management teams need to be the leaders of your organization. They need to be working on the business – not in the business.

Hiring is one of the trickiest things any organization can do. Hiring the right people can make your business take off. Hiring the wrong person wastes both time and money. It’s crucial to understand when you need to start hiring for growth and when you need to start hiring people who can specialize and expand your organization.

When was the moment you first realized the need for specialist employees? Are you a larger organization who still looks for generalists? Let’s talk in the comments below.