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Four tips for staying lean while starting up

Thursday, 13 February 2014 | By Julie Seletto

It’s important for start-ups to build a brand and create momentum in the market quickly. However, this can cause founders to scale too soon, over-expand and hire staff the business can neither afford nor sustain.


Without a doubt, people are the most important and expensive investment, and in a cash-strapped, fledgling start-up, it pays to think outside the square when it comes to building a talented team that will help the business grow.


Create and promote a flexible workplace


It may be appropriate to have employees work remotely, meet weekly in the office to discuss issues and projects in more detail and use business productivity tools like Skype, Dropbox and other online collaboration tools as a low-cost way to stay in touch throughout the week.


The added benefit of adopting a flexible workplace is the greater potential to attract a wider pool of talent because, all of a sudden, your talent pool is global. Keep in mind that in the early stages of tenure, it’s also important to build attachment with your talent; regular face time is still important.


Build a virtual team


Outsourcing specialist skills is a great way to keep overheads low while starting up. In fact, it proves to be a good long-term strategy as well.


Look to either contract or outsource anything that isn’t core to your business such as finance support, administration, design and payroll. This reduces fixed costs like pay leave, work cover superannuation and general costs of employing staff.


More importantly, having a virtual team allows you as founder to focus on growing the business whilst calling in the experts for everything else. A smaller team means less people management and fewer distractions, keeping you focused on what’s going to drive the business.


Don’t measure your success by the size of your team


Starting off with a large team helps a business grow faster. It also helps attract new talent, give the impression of success and gain market traction quickly. But in a start-up environment, it is dangerous to measure success based on how many people you have, or how quickly you grow your talent.


Premature scaling is costly, unnecessary and is the number one reason why start-ups fail. Instead, invest in a few of the right people, help them succeed and then build a team around them gradually.


It is useful to have clear metrics in place to understand the hiring stages of your business while staying flexible to allow unplanned hires if you come across exceptional talent. Every hire is key in the early days and can make or break your business, or at least have a large influence on it. Invest in those that will help achieve your business goals.


Be clever with your salary packaging


While cash flow is an issue for most start-ups, it’s not an excuse for missing out on good talent. No doubt your offer needs to be attractive, however, competing effectively in the war for talent does not always equate to big dollar signs.


Consider what’s important to each new hire and make your offer appealing to their individual needs. For some, additional leave days, flexible hours or working from home are more important than money.


Also, look at incorporating performance incentives such as travel, vouchers and bonuses. If you’re looking at entrepreneurial types, consider offering a stake in the business or profit-share arrangements.


Julie Seletto is co-founder of www.seedtalent.com.au, a specialist tech recruitment firm and 2012 BRW Fast Starter, which connects intelligent and passionate people in the Australian tech and digital space. Follow on Twitter @Seed_Talent