It takes passion, drive and creativity to start a business from scratch, and once it starts to grow, the same high level of creativity is needed to find and hire the right people to help ensure its future success.
Where do smart entrepreneurs find their top talent? Probably not amongst the sea of CVs submitted via Monster or CareerBuilder. In the startup world, business owners who want people with the right fit need to be as creative with their recruitment strategy as they are with their business ideas.
Become a talent magnet
Smart businesses get the best candidates knocking on their door. Building your employer brand is the key to becoming a magnet for talent. This means communicating intelligently about the right topics with the right people.
Sinead Hasson founder of recruitment company Hasson Associates says: “By focusing on building a list of influential contacts in your sector, and earning their respect, you can build a team of advocates whose recommendations will steer talented individuals to you. If you don’t have one already, add a ‘working for us’ page to your website and use it to tell the story of your business, what makes it different, and what motivates you and your team to come in each day.”
Approach ideal candidates direct
The chances are that most dream candidates are already employed, happy in their work and not actively seeking a new job. Approaching them can feel risky, but it can also pay huge dividends in getting exactly the right person for your team.
When dentists David and Rashmi Hickey hired marketing manager Claire Lord they relied on instinct. The husband-and-wife team had just bought a dental practice, Southport Road Dental, and while they were focused on doing the dentistry they needed someone with marketing skills to help grow the business. “They also needed very good people skills as the role also involved dealing with often very anxious patients,” said David.
Traditional job boards had failed to come up with anyone suitable, so the couple turned proactive and began looking for their dream hire themselves.
Rashmi says: “We were at a shopping centre buying a coffee machine for the practice, which Claire was doing a great job of pitching to us. We were both so impressed with her energy and her sparkle we knew she was the one. I told her so, and said we were looking for someone exactly like her, and if she was interested to get in touch. By the time we got home, her email was waiting for us.” Claire joined the practice and has played a key role in its continued growth.
After successfully exiting his foreign exchange start-up, Canadian entrepreneur Colin Pyle moved to London in 2014 to co-found coffee business CRU Kafe. Since its launch, revenue has grown from £100,00 to £2 million, with exports to Hong Kong, the Middle East, North America and the rest of Europe.
His hiring philosophy is to ‘hire people, not their CVs’. “I can always teach someone skills but it’s very hard to teach someone drive, work ethic and reliability,” he says.
To date he has hired 20 people for CRU, but over the course of his career, the number is closer to 120. Pyle finds and hires fresh talent either through his own personal network or through people who track him down, and says he is particularly receptive to persistent people who he meets but may not need right away, but are keen to keep in touch, and therefore stay front of mind.
Offer a share of the business
Launched in 1981, business title North East Times magazine ended its print run in summer 2015, and last October was bought and relaunched by managing director Pete Mallon, who needed to build a core team who could deliver the main roles associated with publishing a business and lifestyle magazine.
He says: “I identified key personnel and offered each a bespoke package of benefits suited to their individual needs, and a share in the business after a 12-month probationary period. By investing in these individuals, they felt more invested in the project and went above and beyond their main job profiles to ensure the business was a success.”
Instantly upskill your team
Finding staff with a specific skill set is always a challenge for small but growing businesses. Continually evolving skills is imperative, but the process of upskilling staff can be expensive and time consuming. Philip Lilliefelth, founder of software firm Pansofica, gets around the problem by using freelance specialists, from sites like Upwork, who take it upon themselves to stay up-to-date with technical skills.
He says: “We are able to source the desired skill set immediately without major overheads, which in many cases is more suitable for start ups with budget constraints.”
Hire on talent and mindset
An impressive CV, excellent exam grades and attendance at a top university can be the differentiator for startups making their first hires, however digital transformation agency Freeformers doesn’t look at any of that stuff. Instead they hire on mindset and talent. In fact, it hired one person because they were a good baker and that impressed them.
“We look for people who have something to teach us, who have a spark and an ability to change the game and look at things through their unique personality or perspective. That’s far more important when building a team,” says co-founder Emma Cerrone.
And their philosophy on getting the best out of good talent is to not be afraid of good talent leaving, as it often means they go off, experience other stuff and bring that experience back to the company.
She added: “Mindset and values are key. If they ‘leave’ because they want to pursue other projects or build different skills, it is in everyone’s interest that they remain as part of our network. We say ‘once a Freeformer, always a Freeformer’ and so we love it when people ‘leave’ and come back to make an impact with a new outlook on specific projects or to take up new responsibilities with the new skills they have developed.”
This article was written by Alison Coleman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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