How to grow your team – from 1 to 10

A successful hiring strategy is one of the things that can make or break your business. You need to bring in the right talent, with the right motivation, without disrupting your workplace culture. Pip Jamieson, founder of creative networking and hiring platform The Dots and who has built a team – from scratch – three times now, shared her insight at her Clever Boxer talk at Shoreditch House. Here’s a round-up of her top tips. 

What do you need?

“Hiring someone just like you can be fatal for your start-up. You don’t need someone with your skillset, you need someone who will balance those skills out. Work out skills are currently missing and what your business really needs before you hire someone. Diversity in ethnicity and backgrounds is extremely important but especially so for a start-up is in skillets which should compliment each other. ‘Strengths Finder 2.0’ by Tom Rath is a great resource and online questionnaire to help you work out your strengths.”

The best hiring is through personal networks... And of course the Dots!

“A recommendation from someone you really trust – and you should only hit up people you really trust – is still the best route. One of the best things about The Dots is you can build a network on the platform (a talent roster as sorts) and search for people that are recommended by your trusted contacts.”

Screen candidates fast, then slow

“You know whether someone’s going to be a good fit within the first ten minutes of an interview yet you have to sit the full hour out. Instead, start with a 15-minute Skype chat and trust your gut (Skype not phone because you get so much more from seeing someone). If you’re impressed by them, have everyone in your team interview them separately, even if it’s just 15 or 20 minutes. If it’s a small team, it’s critical that everyone agrees.”

Spend time on the interview questions

“Try questions such as ‘have you ever called in sick on a job when you’re not actually sick’. It’s worth spending time on the questions. ‘Delivering Happiness’ by Tony Hsieh has great information about interviewing practices.”

Do your research

“Do background checks on applicants beyond just speaking to their referees who are of course going to say good things about them.”

Will they roll up their sleeves

“People coming from a corporate background may well be used to having a team or teams around them. How will they cope without a proper HR department, accounts or receptionists? While you’ll be hiring for a specific skillset, the start-up environment requires people who are willing to muck in beyond their job description.”

Hire positive happy people

“You can’t teach positivity and you can’t teach a can-do attitude. When shit goes down – and it always does when you run a business – you need someone who will come with solutions not problems.”

Managing the team

“Set KPIs [key performance indicators, for instance convert a certain number of meetings into sales in any given period, or increase the number of Instagram followers] for your team.

“Of course, as a start-up, you’ll be still trying to work out what the business KPIs are, and how you measure success one month will change the next. Set that expectation that KPIs will change on a month by month basis. 

“We start the week with a stand-up whip. Every Monday morning we stand and up and tell each other what we did last week, and what we’re planning for this week.”

Work processes

“It’s important to set the parameters of work processes so your team use them as planned – a weekly good news email, for instance, might be used by a new starter for daily SEO updates.”

Recommended resources to help with work processes:

Trello – task buckets/sprints

Slack – talking around specific projects, internal messaging system

Jira – full on project tech management

Gmail – manage everything on Gmail. Google Drive is as good as Dropbox

Xero – makes your book-keeping fun!

Retaining the team

“When first starting a business, it’s easy to race from task to task. Don’t forget to celebrate the wins. We started a glory wall at The Dots – yes, it’s a really bad name! – where we pin up achievements. Share good news – the great customer feedback, the lovely messages, new clients. 

“Creative people will be full of ideas so to manage this we created ‘pitch days’. Every quarter, each team member pitches two ideas for the business in a sort of internal Dragon’s Den, just one minute per pitch, and we then action the best ideas. The team feel as though they are actually involved in the business. 

“Consider share options. We’ve ring-fenced 5 percent of shares for our top talent. Obviously get a decent cut-off period where they have to have been at the company before they can start to claim them, and look at four year vesting options whereby they get 50 percent of the share options after two years, the remainder after four.”

Management style – happy staff, productive staff

“You don’t want people to be bored – or on the area of no tension on the graph – however there gets to a point where performance suddenly drops off and people burnout. Instead of motivating your team, they get that panicked, scared look, they’re deer in the headlights. Apply too much pressure and people will burnout and leave you. You want them in the flow where they’re really creative, motivated and doing a good job, not constantly overwhelmed and panicked.”

Letting people go

“It’s really important to get people out if they’re not right. It’s your natural instinct to nurture someone into a role, to fix them and everything around them, but it will only turn toxic. Never, ever tolerate politics, bullies, clique-forming or nastiness, just get them out of there.”

Never ending learning curve–