Taking the Plunge

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Taking the Plunge

Monday, 16 January 2012 13:56

Staffing a start-up

It's a nice position to be in to be looking for new staff for your start-up. At the very least it means the business is growing, and if you find the right person they can help you accelerate that growth.


At Shooii we have currently been recruiting for a junior role which will help free up time for us to move our business to the next level. It's a process that has raised quite a few questions and challenges for us.


Firstly, we had to think about which role to hire for. With only a fixed amount of resources available for new staff, we need to ensure that we deliver the most valuable output for the business.


For us, this involved a review of all the work that needs to be done, and evaluating not only what tasks an employee could tackle, but also analysing the most effective use of our own time and how a new hire would complement the best use of our own time.


The next decision involved working out how we would get the word out that we were hiring, without breaking the bank. We posted the job on a free job board that was specific to the interest of our likely candidates, and also asked our network of contacts in that field to spread the word for us.


Luckily the quality of applicants we received were strong, and that in turn has required us to ask ourselves which qualities we deem most important for a member of the Shooii team. We've had this discussion in the past that for us, possible cultural fit may even rate slightly higher than technical ability.


Dave and I place a huge emphasis on maintaining the right company culture, and while we have our ideas it's ultimately up to all staff to shape the way a business works together.


Based on this we're looking for applicants who are multi-skilled, enthusiastic, vibrant and have an appetite for learning – in addition to being proficient in the skills at the core of the role.


It's likely that their role will grow and change over time, so it's key that they bring the right attitude to tackle life in a busy start-up office.


Once we've come to a resolution, I'm sure it will be time to immediately move on to the next challenge – finding the time to be a good manager!

Mark Campbell is the director for web strategy at Shooii, a retail start-up that is launching very soon. Mark is passionate about branding, innovation and creating a positive company culture. He shares the highs and lows of planning a new business for StartupSmart.

Comments (1)

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Staffing your startup can be one of the biggest (of many) challenges you face.

Your people will define your success. But most new entrepreneurs don't have experience in hiring people. And even fewer have the budget to pay a recruitment agency to 'help'.

It can help to break the recruitment process into major steps, to see if you'll be stronger in some areas than others, and where (if at all) it might make sense to call on advice:

1. Role requirements. This should always be done upfront. You guys mention deciding the 'important qualities' once you had some strong responses. It's always best to think the 'ideal hire' before starting the search for candidates.

2. Sourcing. Ultimately, this is why some companies pay the big bucks for recruitment agencies. They can't 'find the right staff'. As an entrepreneur, this should be one your strong points in the recruitment process. Leverage your network, get introductions, go to industry events. Referrals are your best friend at this stage of your company.

3. Screening. If you do advertise a role, you'll generally only want to meet 5-10% (if that!) of responses. Screening out the remainder can be a painful but necessary process. Again, make sure you've got your role requirements setup properly in stage one.

4. Selection. Once you have a shortlist, who do you select? This step can involve interviewing, skills testing, psychometric testing, more interviewing. Many first time entrepreneurs struggle at this stage. They've simply never had to interview someone before. Be careful not to go into 'sell' mode before you've explored the relevant areas in their experience. And make sure to ask/test similar questions of all candidates.

Even if you do have interviewing experience, it can be wise to involve multiple people in the interview process. This is where outside advisers or investors can be particularly helpful.

5. Negotiating. Again, this can be a challenge for startups. Salaries might be below market - how will you counteract this: With equity? Other benefits? The excitement of building a new business?

6. Reference checking. This sounds boring. And it can be to do. But it's an absolutely critical (and generally under-utilised) part of the process. Pick up the phone and call an old employer... you might be amazed by what you learn.

7. Induction. Oh yeah - we found the right person, now what?! Make sure to plan the first day/week/whatever so they have the right training, experience, tools and environment. The first 90 days are absolutely critical in driving the engagement and performance of every new employee.

Many startups look at recruitment and panic. But it can help to think about these stages in a structured way, then decide where/when you might need help. Unfortunately, if you do want help, most recruitment agencies will only work from 'start to finish'. This inflexibility, combined with outrageous cost, means it's just not an option for almost any startup.

Be proactive, agile and imaginative when doing it yourself, and look around to see what non-traditional options are available if you do need support.

Michael Overell
CEO, RecruitLoop

*Cutting recruitment agencies out of the loop*
mboverell , January 16, 2012
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