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Performance & Growth

Is Your Start-up Ready to Hire?

As your start-up grows, you need to start hiring, but there’s an art to those early hires.

Nicholas Haralambous

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Hiring staff when you personally fill the roll of the founder, the only employee, the sales manager, operations chief and everything in between can feel like an overwhelming task.

Many people will tell you that hiring the right people is probably the most important thing that a young business can do.

That’s easier said than done when you have to keep your business afloat while trying to find time to interview people for a position that doesn’t exist yet and for which you feel you’re the only one qualified.

It’s also hard to find incredible talent at an affordable price when you’re a start-up trying to save money to grow. Sometimes growth comes at a price.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 5 Tried-And-Tested Tips for Hiring the Best Talent

There are some hard and fast rules that I have learnt over the past few years about hiring staff that I try to stick to. Firstly, hire slowly. No matter how much pressure you’re under, do not rush. Secondly, don’t settle for average.

Average means that you’ll still be doing a lot of clean up work after your team member. Here are a few more pointers to guide you through your first few team hires.

Figure out what you’re good at

Then hire people to do everything else. When you start out in your business you’ll be doing everything. When you start to build a team, you need to hire people who are better than you.

Not better than you at everything (that can come later) but better than you at key things that your business needs and that you suck at.

So it’s important to figure out what you are excellent at and what you want to do versus the things that you have to do because you’re the only person in the business.

I absolutely hate admin and accounts, so I’ve found a person who is brilliant at writing courier waybills, checking stock and managing our invoicing process. The rest is my job in the meantime.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re good at and you’ve reached your breaking point in terms of how much you can actually get done in a single day, it’s time to hire someone. But be sure to hire someone who wants to work at a start-up and as hard as you work. It’s also important to remember that the next person you hire has to add something very material to your business.

They either need to free you up to do what you are good at or they need to be incredible at something that will bring you more revenue in some way. More revenue will lead to more freedom in the business to hire incredible people and grow effectively.

Don’t hire because it’s ‘cool’

Gone are the days when a big head count meant a successful business. Do not value your business by the number of people you employ. If you can build an extremely profitable, sustainable and scalable business with two staff members then do that.

However you must recognise that there may come a time when you will need to hire your way out of a plateau or slump.

Sometimes it’s a great thing to get new blood into the business with a specialised skill that can accomplish a very specific goal.

The perfect example is a sales executive. As a founder you often fill the role of sales executive, implementation officer and everything in between.

Very often there is a point in a business when you need someone who is a born sales person to come into the business and grow your lead pipeline and close those deals.

This position might be expensive to hire, but if you get the right person in they can increase your revenue within a couple of months.

Culture fit is imperative

There are a lot of things that you can teach someone to do in a business.

Just about any intelligent hire will be able to learn how to use your coffee machine, add a ‘to do’ in your project management tool and figure out how to do accounts if they absolutely have to.

Something that is significantly more difficult to teach is corporate culture.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 4 Steps to Hiring Killer Sales Staff

At a start-up the team is everything. If there is an odd egg that doesn’t quite fit in with your culture of early mornings, sprints up the road for team building and love of Taylor Swift music at lunch time, then you’re going to have a problem.

One bad hire can destroy a company culture, and when your team is small and your business young, that’s when you need people to really galvanise and want to work for one another.

Make sure that you are hiring the best people for their position who really fit your company culture.

Nicholas Haralambous is the founder of the style company, Nicharry.com. He is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer who likes to tell the honest, brutal truth at every possible opportunity.

Performance & Growth

Proven Strategies To Grow Your Start-up On A Scale Following These Guidelines

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Joseph Harisson

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Scalability and flexibility are important properties of any business. Let’s say you’ve managed to build a successful start-up. It’s profitable and promising, but you want it to become better. The scalability of a business involves its ability to adapt for bigger workloads without losing revenue.

Even if your business is currently small and doesn’t generate huge profits, scalability can help it turn into a large enterprise. The wrong approach to developing a start-up can deprive it of an opportunity to become better.

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Scaling Vs Growth

Many companies make a mistake of thinking that scaling and growing a company is the same thing. In fact, growth involves increasing revenue or the size of the company (the number of employees, offices, clients).

Constant growth requires numerous resources and may not always lead to a proportional revenue increase. In many cases, the growing number of services or products needed to boost revenue involves high costs related to the growing number of employees and equipment.

On the other hand, scaling allows you to increase the revenue without the costs involved in growth. You can handle the extra load and boost your profits while keeping the costs to a minimum.

At some point, a successful start-up needs to make a choice between growing at a constant rate and switching to the scaling business model.

Even though a single clear method for scaling your business doesn’t exist, there are some guidelines you can follow.

Related: If You Want Scale, Fail Fast And Learn Quickly

1. Get Ready To Be Patient

Scaling is not a quick process so you have to be patient. The overnight success story is not about you. In fact, scaling too fast usually results in unfortunate failure.

Allow yourself to spend the time to understand who your ideal customers are and how you can solve their problems in a better manner. Make sure you understand how to be confident about the new volume of your work.

Do research to find out how you can find the right resources to achieve scaling rather than growth.

2. Choose The Right Software

The lack of time and team members is a common problem for a startup looking for scaling methods. That’s why they need to try and automate as many processes as possible. This can be done with the assistance of the right software.

  • Trello – to simplify in-office and remote teamwork
  • MailChimp – to improve marketing campaigns
  • Brand24 – to get insights about your business
  • Survicate – to collect customers’ feedback
  • Voiptime – to increase connectivity.

Enterprise SEO specialists at Miromind also recommend paying special attention to different programmes to help you with your marketing efforts. Many digital marketing tools available today are free.

3. Take Advantage of Outsourcing

Since you are hoping to limit the expenses while growing the revenue, you have to find ways to spend the revenue in the right manner. The biggest mistake made by business owners who think they are choosing scaling is hiring a big team. By doing so, they turn scaling into growing.

Your best bet to avoid hiring a large team and paying large salaries while achieving your plans is to outsource. Using your resources wisely involves finding freelancers and remote employees who are willing to work for a lower pay on a one-time (or several) contract bases.

For example, you don’t need a lawyer or a computer specialist sitting in the office all day long. Why should you pay them a monthly salary?

Related: What It Will Really Take For South Africa’s Businesses To Scale And Create Jobs

4. Don’t Do It Alone

Even though certain team minimisation is necessary to improve your scaling efforts, don’t try to handle everything on your own. It’s important to have at least one person you can rely on to manage the business-related problems.

Conclusion

Scaling your start-up is possible as soon as you understand what scaling is in detail. You need to be careful not to start growing your business instead of scaling it in the process. Once you have all the fundamentals figured, resources managed, and the right people in place, you are ready to start.

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Performance & Growth

Selling The Cape Town Lifestyle In China

GSB alumnus Grant Horsfield has built a rapidly expanding business in China that aims to provide a better lived environment – both at work and at play – and deliver a more balanced, sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle.

Entrepreneur

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When Grant Horsfield moved to Shanghai, shortly after completing his MBA at the GSB in 2004, he wanted to find a product to sell to China, when the rest of the world was focused on buying from China. “I had a clear purpose,” he says, “I wanted to import something from Africa and bring it to China – I just didn’t know what it was.”

Horsfield had completed the Doing Business in China elective on the MBA programme, taught by Professor Kobus Van der Wath, which led to him accepting a job in China with Van der Wath’s consulting firm – The Beijing Axis. He also completed an exchange programme at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. During this time, although he found China to be exciting and full of opportunity, Horsfield missed the Capetonian lifestyle – particularly the outdoor life and the interaction with nature.

He says, “that was when I realised that the product China needed was the lifestyle that we have in South Africa. I was sure that if the Chinese knew what they didn’t know, they would be living a more balanced life and be able to appreciate and relax in nature – so that was what I really wanted to import to China, the Cape Town lifestyle.

“At that point there was no concept of a weekend getaway spent relaxing in nature that we are so used to in South Africa,” Horsfield explains. This realisation kickstarted his vision for Naked – a chain of boutique eco-resorts set in natural landscapes across China.

Related: Want To Start An Import Business – Here Are The Importing Terms And Documents Involved

The naked Group, which Horsfield founded in 2007, has built and now operates four luxury resorts with a further six under development. The first boutique resort, naked Home opened in Zhejiang Province in 2007, followed by naked Stables – an award-winning resort in Moganshan which offers horse riding to guests. Naked Stables is an industry pioneer in that it was the first resort in China to receive the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification – an American certification system encouraging the design of energy and resource-efficient buildings that are healthy to live in. Horsfield extended the concept of a luxurious retreat with the addition of naked Castle, a 95-room castle with two restaurants and a spa surrounded by lush forest, and naked Sail which offers a unique travel experience on a 70-foot catamaran in the Andaman Sea.

In 2015, the naked Group expanded into the co-working office space industry through naked Hub. Horsfield sees the move into office space as a natural extension of the naked brand.

“Essentially we had been inviting people to have a better lifestyle outside of work and we realised that we could do that in the work experience too,” he says. “When you build a resort, you build a space that allows people to experience a certain level of comfort and enjoy themselves, so why not do that in an office?” The naked team’s skillset in designing and building sustainable comfy resorts was easily transferred to building office spaces that people enjoy working in.

Naked Hub has seen rapid expansion, opening 50 hubs across China, Vietnam, Australia and the UK in just two and a half years. Initially based on smaller start-ups or freelancers in the gig economy, Naked Hub now caters to larger firms. “The idea of co-working space was born out of trying to make a more efficient smarter space for smaller companies but today more that 50% of our companies are multinationals,” says Horsfield.

The principles of a more balanced lifestyle and a cleaner more sustainable environment are present in all naked projects. For Horsfield, it’s all about trying to make the world a better place.

“No matter what kind of entrepreneur you are, you have to have some values that are important to you. For me, trying to change things for the better has been paramount in everything we’ve designed, and we probably have more sustainability experts on our payroll than most companies. What we do is not just about building, it’s about people, communities and how people interact in their environment.”

Commenting on what it takes to start a successful business in China, and then follow through with rapid global expansion, Horsfield says perseverance, a belief in what you want to achieve, and above all – courage – all play a role.

“You’ve got to have courage to do what looks very scary. If you don’t have a sound belief that it will work, then you just can’t do it.” He adds, laughing, “or as my mom says – I’m just too stupid to see the potential problems! But seriously, courage is what separates businesspeople from entrepreneurs – and that’s something that can’t be taught.”

Horsfield also believes strongly in what he terms AQ, or adversity quotient. “This is the mentality that allows me to overcome obstacles, the ability to hit a wall 20 times but pick myself up and keep on trying.”

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

Looking back on his experience of the MBA, he believes the programme’s value lies in promoting self-knowledge and reflection. He says, “each project I did allowed me to examine what I had done before and to consider how I could have done things differently. Examining my strengths and weaknesses was a huge benefit. Today I don’t hire people who have low self-awareness.”

“The other wonderful thing about the MBA was the diversity of students. We had a mixed group internationally, with people from many different cultural and work backgrounds, that was really enlightening. It also gave me a strong network of likeminded people.”

Horsfield believes his South African upbringing and his education at the GSB certainly helped him on his entrepreneurial path. He says, “wanting to do some good in the world, wanting to change things for the better, is a uniquely South African strength.”

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Performance & Growth

What Are You Prepared To Lose?

While business growth tends to be a major goal for most business owners, with growth comes pain. Here’s how you navigate those challenges.

Ed Hatton

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Many, perhaps most entrepreneurs would like their businesses to grow — whether from ambition to create an empire or just to reduce the risks inherent in being a little business. To do so the entrepreneur has to change roles. They must move from where they can control everything, and change from working as they always have. Being human, we fear moving away from familiar routines, we find it hard to give up authority and we lie awake at night worrying if we can afford all those extra people.

When you run a small business you make all the decisions, you monitor performance of your employees, have direct contact with customers and have a small nest egg so you can still pay your people in bad months. A bigger business means higher overheads, more debtors, and additional inventory, all of which will put a strain on cash flow. You are likely to need more working capital to finance growth and may have to take a loan, which only adds to the risk.

You are also likely to have less day-to-day control over operations and will worry about whether your managers are about to commit an appalling blunder. A more insidious risk is the growing distance between you and customers as the business adds layers of sales managers, sales people, project managers, and branches.

Finding the opportunities

It’s difficult enough just to stand still in tough times, let alone grow strongly. The more difficult the competitive and economic situation becomes, the more we want to control every aspect of the business. We hesitate to fill vacancies, clamp down on expenses, get enraged when people make mistakes and push the sales team until they get nervous.

We develop a hang-in-there mentality and hope for better times. Paradoxically, tough times offer great growth opportunities. While others cut down on training and marketing, you have the opportunity to lure customers away from them with aggressive marketing and pricing. You can build a work environment that will attract the best people by offering strong customer support and good development opportunities. If you are bold, you have the opportunity to lock in the best suppliers by paying on time and signing long-term contracts while others delay payments and seek cheaper suppliers. It takes courage to do this, and you will feel the loss of security and comfort zones.

Related: 3 Ways To Promote Business Growth In A Troubled Economy

In this rapidly changing world, it may be easier to grow a business now than it has ever been. Businesses that embrace change and look for opportunities in uncertainty can scale rapidly. Disruptive technologies have changed the rules and allowed new businesses to grow to international giants. Waste — especially packaging waste — green energy, medical technology and urbanisation have all presented global opportunities for smart entrepreneurs.

Change is difficult to manage; we prefer our comfort zones, but treating change as a friend rather than a fear could give your business the growth spurt you desire.

Letting go to move forward

One of the hardest things to do as a business grows is to discard products, people and processes that have built your business to where it is today, but will be a hindrance to you as you grow. You may have a favourite product that was the essence of your start-up, but is now out of date and uncompetitive. Kill it.

There is pain in dealing with staff and suppliers who will not be able to keep up with your growth, especially those who stood by you when you needed them. I am all for loyalty, but if loyalty becomes a hindrance you must act. Be kind to them, give them their dignity rather than carrying them as a charitable favour. Change their roles, or find alternate work for them. Getting rid of encumbrances, products, people, suppliers, customers and processes is all part of what you need to do to take your business into a growth phase.

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