As any entrepreneur, or anyone who works at a startup, will tell you, it’s a total baptism of fire when you work in a newly created business. Even more so if it’s actually your business and you have poured blood, sweat and tears (and, as Theo Paphetis would say…your children’s inheritance!) into it! There are highs, lows and in-between moments.
We were very blessed to receive an incredible amount of help on our journey, and I wanted to share some key learnings we have benefitted from. When we look back at where we started in early 2015, and where we are today, I can’t believe how much we have learned about ourselves, about the business world, and about the importance of following the below advice. If you are an aspiring business owner, or a leader in any capacity, or one of the many wonderful people who helped us get to where we are today (you know who you are!), I hope you enjoy our piece of reflection.
If the only reason you are setting up a new business is for the payday at the end, don’t! There is nothing wrong with having the commercial acumen to identify a great opportunity that will earn you a serious amount of money at the end, but if this is the sole reason, it will be an uninspiring journey along the way. If you have ever watched the TV shows The Apprentice, or Dragon’s Den, you will notice that if the investors just can’t get passionate or excited about the product or service, they don’t invest. And they don’t have to work in the business on a daily basis. You will spend a very large amount of your waking life in your business, so you have to enjoy it. Do Lorraine and I hope to once day sit on the terrace of a (mortgage free) holiday home in Marbella? Sure. But whilst we are on the path to such delights, we are enjoying every minute of building a business we feel proud of, and one where we genuinely enjoy the daily tasks. There is so much stress in your first few years running a business, so you have to enjoy what you do!
Whether you are a sole trader, partnership, limited company or whatever structure you adopt, align yourself with people you have absolute faith and trust in. Lorraine and I had previously worked together for a very long time, and so we knew that one would always pick up the baton for the other. By extension, we have a fantastic team that we trust and go the extra mile to deliver on company goals. John Lennon famously said ‘Life is what happens when you are making other plans’ and this is so true – whilst you are busy building your empire, you will be hit with personal curveballs you did not anticipate, whether these are serious (such as health problems or a bereavement) or simply short term inconveniences (childcare issues, office gets flooded), you need to surround yourself with people who will step up when required and give your customers a seamless experience if you can’t be available for any reason or if there is a crisis in either your personal or business life. Your business is too precious to allow anyone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart onboard, and naturally, this has to work both ways – you have to be trusted by your partners and team and show them by your actions that they can always rely on you.
I’m smiling as I write this particular point – thinking back to the first ever P&L forecast we created for our investors! The word naïve is probably an understatement. Armed with a ton of energy and ambition, potential entrepreneurs often base their forecasting and cash flow based on keeping the costs as low as possible and being overly optimistic on the returns. And then reality hits.
We were so lucky to have highly experienced investors on board, who gently advised us that the figures we predicted would only ever lead to a lifestyle business – we would still have done well operating as a two-person team, but it wouldn’t be a business that could scale. If you are serious about growing a business, you will have to invest in systems, people, infrastructure and marketing that has a medium to long-term ROI. Map out a detailed financial plan and speak to non-competing (but similar) business owners and ask them is there anything you haven’t accounted for. We benefitted from several meetups with owners or senior managers in recruitment companies who gave us insight into financial commitments that were essential if we wanted to create the business we had designed – trade association memberships, essential events we should attend, IT systems that were expensive but automated manual tasks. We learned that ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ is a very true mantra, whether that be your CRM system, your staff salaries or your offices.
In the same way you build an internal team you trust, you should also find a collection of advocates what will help. We have forged and maintained great relationships with C-Suite-Level mentors who come to our board meetings and offer their perspective. We have built a network of ‘friendly rivals’ in the recruitment community where we meet regularly and share insights and best practices. Some of our senior clients and candidates, who we have worked with for almost 10 years, have run workshops and mentoring sessions for us free of charge, and overall we have a great ‘tribe’ of advocates who have helped us reach our 3 year goals. Identify your advocates and look at how you can help each other out, they will be an important asset as you grow your business from ground zero.
As a business owner, you need to set this from day one. Allow people to bring their whole selves to work, but you set the culture. Make sure you communicate it when hiring – we created a deck that showed what a TalentHub person looks like and we openly shared it every time we met a potential hire. Many of our clients share their Culture and Values model with us, and we screen not only for functional skills, but for these competencies and personality types. No matter how great a potential hire may be from a skills and experience perspective, if you don’t factor in culture it will inevitably lead to a costly, short-term hire. Set your values statement and culture, and make sure you hire around it.
It’s tempting in startup land to insist on doing everything yourself but you will just frustrate your staff. We have met a huge number of fantastic candidates over the years who approached us because whilst they loved the product, the micromanagement by the business owner was de-skilling them. You need to empower your employees and as the phrase goes, Leaders Hire Leaders, Not Followers. Respect your employees and understand that they have ambitions and career goals, and you should facilitate these if you want them to stay with you as you build your business. You obviously have to oversee and manage your team to ensure everyone’s work is aligned with your business goals, but don’t micromanage them (or you will be coming to TalentHub to backfill their roles again and again!)
Adapt quickly to any changes in the business or in your customer markets – don’t be afraid to alter your strategies or pivot when you need to. Read the Spencer Johnson book ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ – It’s an easy but brilliant read into why it’s so important to adapt to change (quickly!)
Listen to your staff and respect them, embrace all feedback and encourage them to be honest with you – as a business owner you will view things from your own point of view and it’s essential to get an external perspective.
Remember that whilst your business may be your number one passion, your staff have a life outside of work (and so should you!) They will be much more productive if they feel refreshed due to a good work-life balance. In the same vein, as business owners you should know when to switch off – you can only do so much and we all know the various quotes Steve Jobs made when he was terminally ill, about how he regretted not spending more time on non-work pursuits.
Finally, I think our greatest learning from the past 3 years of running TalentHub has been that we have a huge appreciation for the challenges our clients face in running their businesses, departments and teams. We now understand the pressure they are under, why hiring the right people is essential for them, and why they have to implement certain processes and standards. This knowledge and appreciation of their challenges makes us even better recruitment partners to our clients and is the reason we insist on still recruiting at the coal face, rather than simply running TalentHub.
I’d like to thank our wonderful team, our clients, candidates and stakeholders for their loyalty and support over the past 3 years, we look forward to seeing what 2018 will bring to us all!
If you have a role that needs filling or if you’re looking for new career opportunities, reach out to us today! We’re more than happy to sit down and discuss your goals for the year ahead.
Email: email@example.com or call Tel: +35316344888
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Author: Ellie Doyle
Ellie brings a pragmatic approach to clients hiring challenges, and believes in the power of asking the right questions. She has a phenomenal network of industry contacts – if anyone knows the person for the job, its Ellie. She is famous for her ability to retain even the smallest detail.