Having worked in a number of big businesses, as well as launching my own brand on a shoe string, one of the unifying challenges was attracting the people who were going to drive growth, as well as delivering in the here and now.
Obviously the stakes are higher when you’re running a smaller outfit. Any hire can make or break your business and you are often vying for the same talent as many of the bigger organisations.
However, don’t underestimate your killer advantage. You presumably set up your own business because you had a passion for the sector, a clear understanding of your customer and a vision for what ‘better’ could look like; something bigger corporations often lose sight of. I mean, isn’t that what drove you to start up your own business in the first place?
In order to play to your strengths and set out your stall, you must focus down on the following; the right people for your business will follow:
Articulate a clear vision and sense of purpose. It might sound a bit cliché, but think about the previous jobs you’ve grabbed with both hands. It’s likely they the ones where you felt the company was doing something different, worthwhile and that you could be part of shaping. This isn’t a nice to have anymore. We know the under 35s aren’t wooed by money and benefits alone, they want to see the company has an ambition over and above making a simple profit. What is your elevator pitch – make sure everybody in the team knows it, word of mouth is a powerful thing.
What do you need? Be clear about what you need and what you want from a candidate – obviously their experience and their skill set is important, but their personality attributes are vital too. We all spend so much of our lives at work so it’s imperative you spend your working life with likeminded people who are good at their job. Make sure they meet those in the team who are most likely to convince them that joining you is a smart move. Introduce them to the people they will get access to, as well as the people who they will work with day to day.
Network. Think about your connections. Talent is increasingly found directly, rather than through head hunters and the conventional routes. If you want to find a good person ask a good person e.g. current staff, business networks, existing clients and any partners. Explore ways to incentivise people to help you – from bonuses to a thank you lunch. In 2016 80 per cent of our new hires came direct, meaning no commission to pay and better quality, right fit people. It doesn’t get better than that.
First impressions count. We are all influenced by our environment, but we can’t all have silver slides like our friends at Ticketmaster. What you can do, is make sure that you treat interviewees with as much care as you do new business pitches: arrive on time, ensure that they meet the right people, get some decent coffee and don’t interview them in the cupboard. Sounds obvious but I went to an interview back in the day at one of the largest sales promotion agencies in the business and was taken to a Caravan – needless to say I didn’t accept the job. Make sure every interaction from the get go is on point, from the first email exchange to contracting the job offer.
Leadership. As a small business leader, you are probably still involved across the business and that’s your biggest USP. Whoever you are hiring, be it a receptionist, developer or senior sales consultant, make sure you are part of the interview process. People buy people and you will be a key part of closing the deal.
Where do they fit? When we start a job, all the best people want to make a difference. It might be the opportunity to work across multiple areas of the business, or own something that has been neglected such as social media. Highlight how they can put their own stamp on the business (this can be worth more than having an in-house café or the roof top bar). Having something you can own is a badge of honour and one that can be the icing on the cake.
Benchmark the competition. By now you probably have a pretty cohesive pitch to attract talent, but don’t fall at the last hurdle. Make sure you have compared your package, both salary and benefits, against the market. Finding a friendly recruitment consultant can help you here. You might not be able to compete on every level, but you do have flexibility on your side. For example, if you can’t match the salary can you offer extra holiday or training, flexible working, or even a birthday lay in, these little extras might not cost you anymore as a business, but they will differentiate you from the rest.
Culture is vital. It’s easier to show your personality when you’re not part of a massive corporate machine use this to your advantage. It is really worth thinking about what makes your business tick and the kind of people who will underpin culture. In our business we are built on an entrepreneurial spirit and our three values are: Thinking, Learning and Fearing Nothing. We use these values to establish whether applicants are a good fit and if they are going to share our agenda and drive the business forward.
If you do all of the above or even most of it. And, you still can’t attract the applicant that you have been trying to lure for the last few months, then as your Granny would say it just wasn’t meant to be.
Fiona Scott is CEO of PSONA.