As a savvy entrepreneur, you’re probably more than familiar with the rise of Facebook and its fresh-faced founder, Mark Zuckerberg. What you may not be aware of is everything that happened after his bio flick The Social Network.
In other words, the day-to-day business intricacies that keep Facebook at the top of its game.
One of the ingredients in the company’s secret sauce is the simple fact that Facebook treats its employees well — free food, free dry cleaning, as well as a lot of other enticing benefits. But make no mistake — the key attraction is the company’s culture and the vision of Zuckerberg, its leader.
Zuck has ‘turned’ many an engineer. For some critical hires, the conversation started with, “No, thank you, I’m not interested.” But Zuck would then take the prospective employee on a long walk up a trail into the mountains (a tactic borrowed from his idol, Steve Jobs), a walk that ended on a hilltop with a breathtaking view and the culmination of Zuck’s pitch, perfectly timed. That walk completely changed minds and showcased Zuck’s vision.
That Facebook’s team is one of the strongest in the industry isn’t the result of luck; it’s the result of Zuck’s strategic approach to hiring the best.
The lesson: Develop smart hiring strategies consistent with your cultural values to bring the right people on board.
Team building extraordinaire
The right people are not those who have the right competency; they are those who have the right attitude. Some of the most successful businesses have a non-traditional, strengths-based approach to hiring – hire the best talent first, then worry about finding the right role for them.
Facebook is one example of such a business: Facebook knows how valuable the right people are. A lot of times, they hire engineers for their skills and their vision of the future.
Once a new hire is in the office, wondering what his responsibilities are, his instructions will be something along the lines of, “Take a look around, figure out what the problems or opportunities are, and help bridge them.”
The company encourages its workers to form teams around projects they’re passionate about, because Facebook’s leaders clearly understand that great work comes out of doing what you adore.
Not only does this approach ensure that employees give their best to the project, but it also provides opportunities for career growth based on smarts and competence, not on credentials.
In that sense, everyone is equal. You are recognised and respected based on your contributions to the improvement of the product; your résumé or your age doesn’t matter.
Facebook is a company where ideas turn into products whether you are an intern or the CEO himself. “Pixels talk,” says Joey Flynn, one of the designers of the Facebook timeline. “You can do anything here if you can prove it.”
The flat management structure at Facebook supports that approach. For a US-based company, there are very few vice presidents. Matt Cohler, Facebook’s fifth employee, says: “We were determined to keep things as flat as possible. The harder we make it for people to invent together, the faster we fall behind.”
Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, who taught Zuckerberg’s artificial-intelligence class at Harvard and is now Facebook’s director of engineering, concurs. “God forbid we spend a single day not trying to prepare for tomorrow’s Facebook. You’ve seen company after company that rose to greatness struggle with scale, struggle with culture,” he says.
Offer your employees a non-traditional career path that is based on their contributions and value-based behaviours and not on their age or credentials.
Challenging the norm
What’s more, the best leaders recommend hiring outside of the industry. An outside look can offer a fresh perspective and often re-energises the company. Steve Jobs was one such leader.
“Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world,” he said.
Southwest Airlines is another company that believes in hiring outside of its industry in order to find the right people. The strategy must be working: For the past 40 years, Southwest has been challenging the conventional wisdom successfully.
Despite being one of the smaller airlines, Southwest has not only stayed in business, but prospered, becoming a customer favourite and an industry darling. Sherry Phelps, top executive in the People Department, explains the company’s hiring philosophy:
“The first thing we look for is the ‘warrior spirit.’ So much of our history was born out of battles – fighting for the right to be an airline, fighting off the big guys who wanted to squash us, now fighting off the low-cost airlines trying to emulate us. We are battle-born, battle-tried people. Anyone we add has to have some of that warrior spirit.”
Southwest’s HR department prefers to recruit teachers, waiters, and police officers as opposed to airline industry veterans. “We would rather take an eager, hungry, customer-oriented mind and mold it to what works well at Southwest, than try to change the habits of someone who’s come up through an organisation that views life differently,” Phelps says.
Every now and then, Southwest hires employees of other legacy airlines. But according to Phelps, it doesn’t happen as often as anyone might think. Southwest is a brand that understands what makes its employees tick and what attributes it is looking for in a new hire. And that attribute isn’t necessarily prior airline industry experience.
In 1962, John F Kennedy visited the NASA space centre. He noticed a janitor who was deep in his work, sweeping the room the president was touring. Kennedy greeted the man: “Hi. I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing here?” Without any hesitation, the janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”
Hire for attitude. Skills can be taught. Passion can’t.
3 Pragmatic Tips For Start-Ups Making Those Critical Initial Hires
One survey found that the third leading cause of failure by startups studied was that they hadn’t built the right team from the beginning.
Nearly every business is guilty of making a less-than-stellar hiring decision at one point or another. A whopping 95 percent of companies surveyed by Brandon Hall Group for its Talent Acquisition study have admitted to this mistake.
While a bad hire can potentially slow down growth at any company, it can actually have a fatal effect on a startup. According to a report by CB Insights, the third leading cause of failure by startups studied was that they hadn’t built the right team from the beginning.
Creating a strong team means that each new hire (or promotion) must be made strategically and with great care, as the margin for error can oftentimes be quite small. Here are three tips to help you build a pool of talent that brings your start-up to the next level.
Define your company culture first
Startups, by definition, are small operations. They may even comprise just one person, so there might not be much of a company “culture” in place just yet. But when your culture does form, it will be a combination of your organisation’s values, beliefs and behaviours that have developed over time. The process of figuring out what this means for your new company makes that first hire that much more important.
Before you start looking for a new addition to your company, then, take the time to define your business’s values first. What mindsets and characteristics are needed to fuel your mission?
Peter Holten Muhlmann, CEO of Trustpilot, one of the world’s largest online review platforms, explained to me via email how his company does this:
“All your hires need to imbibe the company culture, the value of your brand and ultimately transfer it to your product,” Muhlmann wrote, “so that it is obvious to your customers what you stand for. A strong, value-based work culture built on integrity will raise the bar for your hires down the line for years to come.”
This CEO should know. Trustpilot employs more than 600 employees of 40 different nationalities across its seven global offices. If there is one thing he has ingrained in the workplace culture, he said, it’s that the success of his company – and the online review space in general – is completely dependent upon transparency and authenticity.
This is part of the reason why the Trustpilot platform remains “open,” meaning that its reviews aren’t moderated and brands can’t suppress negative reviews. It’s also why the task of maintaining Trustpilot’s core values and honest consumer feedback belongs not just to the company’s “compliance department,” but to every employee.
For your start-up, you should set objectives for short-term and long-term strategies to build the culture you want. This is why you should define values from the beginning, then use that knowledge to guide your hiring decision. The alignment of values must take place before new employees are brought on board.
Outline job roles and personality preferences
By the time start-up owners realise they need to hire someone, they’ll often be experiencing an overwhelming workload. With such a full plate, you may find it tough to know exactly which roles and responsibilities need to be filled. Since most new launches have not had the time or pressing need to clearly define job roles or organisational structure, it is important that entrepreneurs do so before bringing on a new hire.
Checking off technical skills needed is easy enough, but finding someone with the necessary soft skills to excel in the position is what really matters. Some 93 percent of employers surveyed by Wonderlic for its Hard Facts About Soft Skills report emphasised that they considered interpersonal skills and critical thinking vital to look for in a new hire. However, finding that perfect cocktail of hard and soft skills can be a challenge.
Big data technology has a solution, of course. AI-powered recruitment solutions like Harver can do wonders to eliminate the guesswork when it comes to making that initial hire. The system measures both aptitude and attitude by using big data to scour through candidates’ profiles and match their skill level to job descriptions. From there, it uses machine learning to evaluate the person’s soft skills, problem-solving abilities and alignment with the company’s values.
This leads to more informed hiring decisions and a vastly improved likelihood of finding the right matches. As Harver’s CEO Barend Raaff explained to me via email,
“The costs involved with replacing employees can be huge,” he wrote. “We believe that a new hire should fit two categories: skill match and personality match. Aligning both these elements is the key to making informed hiring decisions and reducing turnover.”
Take a step back and critically examine why you need to bring on a new hire. What responsibilities will he or she have? Why those responsibilities? And what skills will be necessary to fulfill this role? Failing to define these criteria will make it more difficult to find the perfect fit. So establish the personality and skillset you need, right from the beginning.
Understand How to Develop Talent, Not Just Find It
Unless you have a huge budget to hire someone with years of experience, one of your greatest challenges in hiring, as a start-up, is being able to spot potential. Furthermore, start-up leaders must understand how to properly develop the people they actually bring on board.
When you bring on younger talent with less experience, make it a point to check in and monitor that person’s development. A performance-management system like 15five can make it easier to accurately assess employee engagement across the board. The tool uses quick surveys to acquire feedback and keep up on issues like morale and performance.
Along the way to reaching your milestones, you can set goals and priorities, along with recognition systems. 15five opens up channels for employees to share their thoughts and suggestions with upper level management.
Overall, job stagnation is one of the top reasons why employees leave a position, according to Glassdoor.
Entrepreneurs thrive on growth and improvement. If you can commit to promoting these goals for your start-up, its outlook will only grow brighter as time goes on.
So, don’t fall victim to making a hasty hiring decision you’ll later regret. Setting a clear vision and defining important requirements is the way to identifying the perfect candidate; enacting a system that continues talent development is the way to keep that talent long-term.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Skills Every Marketer Should Have On Their Resume When Applying To Start-Ups
Wow them with skill sets businesses need to get started.
The field of marketing is incredibly broad and encompasses a wide variety of skill sets, from SEO and coding to website design and social media. Furthermore, marketing for a start-up business is much different than marketing for a traditional, corporate company. When start-ups look to hire a marketer, they’re going to look for different skills than a traditional company might need. The stakes are much higher when adding a new member to a one or two person team, as opposed to a large marketing team of 10 or 20 people. Considering 90 percent of all startups fail, the pressure is on to find someone who can wear multiple hats – and wear them well.
Startups typically have minimal resources to devote to marketing, and yet their marketing plan could make the difference between the success and failure of the business. Because of this, they’re going to look for someone who is energetic, creative, willing to learn through trial and error, and someone who can work independently. In addition to these personality traits, it helps to have some marketing skills that are specific to start-ups.
Below we’ve compiled a list of five skills that every marketer should have on their resume if they’re interested in applying to start-ups.
1. Knowledge of SEO and content creation
If you’re a writer, good at content creation and familiar with SEO, you’re golden to a start-up. Start-ups especially need help creating an online presence, and you can assist them in this by blogging and creating video content, as well as creating SEO goals and tracking your progress. Content creation is what’s going to make a start-up stand out to a customer, and consistent, valuable content will help create and maintain a lasting relationship with an audience. Some people would say that writing skills are even more important than industry knowledge because of this (but we can’t deny that it’s obviously ideal if you have both).
SEO is also imperative to a start-up, but it’s complex and requires a lot of time, so most small business owners need help in this area. Any knowledge of SEO strategies you have will be valuable to a start-up, and the good thing about this is that it’s easy to learn on your own.
2. Basic coding skills
You’ll be even more valuable to a start-up if you’re familiar with SEO strategies and have some basic coding skills. These two things typically go hand in hand, and oftentimes they’re lacking in the skill set of a startup business owner. Coding can help streamline a lot of processes, which is essential for a start-up that doesn’t have a large team or budget to work with. Don’t be turned off by the word coding. No one’s expecting you to be an expert. Some simple knowledge of HTML and CSS is sufficient and valuable for WordPress, email marketing, social media and more – and both these things are easy to learn.
There’s a ton of resources available on coding. It just requires some time to learn, and time is something that most start-ups don’t have. So if you come into the picture with this knowledge already, you’ll be sure to impress.
3. Data analysis experience
If there’s one thing that start-ups are swimming in, it’s data. Every day there is new technology being developed that produces large amounts of data faster than ever, and this is great, providing you know how to analyse and use this data to make good business decisions. Start-ups need a point person for data because it’s such a complex and time-consuming area of business. So much of a start-up’s marketing strategy comes down to trial and error, so show them you know how to create and run A/B test campaigns on your own.
Data is the core of content marketing, and companies are getting much better about using the data from clicks, conversions, keywords and more in order to track their progress, so show business owners that you not only know how to gather the data, you can make sense of it as well. I can almost guarantee it will be a huge weight off their shoulders and an invaluable skill.
4. Social media marketing
Social media is the place to get the word out about a new business, so knowledge of all the different social platforms is imperative. Many start-ups don’t have someone dedicated to social media, so it falls on the marketer. And keep in mind, many don’t see social media to be as time consuming as it really is. You should be familiar with the major ones like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and know how to tailor a marketing strategy for each site.
In addition, it’s helpful to know the niche sites that are specific to the start-up for which you’ll be working. Do your research ahead of time; do they have a large presence on Pinterest or LinkedIn? If they are not present on social media, can you suggest a platform that will work well for them?
The best way to show off your social media skills is to have an online presence yourself, so if you’re going to be talking about LinkedIn, make sure you have a great profile to use as an example. And if you’ve helped other businesses market themselves socially, make sure you include any tips and strategies that have worked well for you in the past. Case studies speak volumes, so don’t be afraid to brag a little (or a lot). This article will give you some tips on how to best optimise Instagram for SEO. You’ll be sure to impress during an interview.
5. Design skills
A start-up will need to develop not just their social media presence, but their brand as a whole, and this is where some design skills can come in handy. Most likely, they’ll still be working on their website, email design and internet marketing, so user accessibility is key. You can have the best business idea in the world, but if your website isn’t functional, you’re never going to succeed.
Take the time to learn WordPress backwards and forwards, as this is the preferred site for most start-ups. Familiarise yourself with the different templates (this is where some coding can also come in handy because even the best templates should be customised for each individual business) and create some example websites you can use to demonstrate your knowledge. Start-ups need to do more than just function; they need to look the part, and having some background in design can help them get that professional feel they’re striving to achieve.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why You Should (Seriously) Stop Hiring People
Employing a whole bunch of people means you have a ‘real’ company, right? Wrong. The best thing you can do for your young company is to hire slowly… very slowly.
When does a start-up begin to feel like a proper business? For many people it comes down to two things: Renting a fancy office and hiring a whole bunch of people. And because these two things signify success in many peoples’ minds, founders tend to rush into them, hiring a bunch of employees and installing them in a freshly-painted office. However, according to Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, it’s the worst thing you can do as a founder.
“One of the weird things you’ll notice as you start a company, is that everyone will ask you how many employees you have. And this is the metric people use to judge how real your start-up is and how cool you are. And if you say you have a high number of employees, they’re really impressed. And if you say you have a low number of employees, then you sound like this little joke,” says Altman.
“But actually it sucks to have a lot of employees, and you should be proud of how few employees you have. Lots of employees end up with things like a high burn rate, meaning you’re losing a lot of money every month, complexity, slow decision-making, the list goes on and it’s nothing good.”
Growth is a good thing, of course, but the kind of growth is important to pay attention to. You want your sales to grow. You want your revenue to grow. You want your profits to grow. You don’t want your expenses to grow any more than is absolutely necessary to facilitate revenue and profit growth.
“You want to be proud of how much you can get done with a small numbers of employees. Many of the best YC companies have had a phenomenally small number of employees for their first year, sometimes none besides the founders. They really try to stay small as long as they possibly can. At the beginning, you should only hire when you desperately need to. Later, you should learn to hire fast and scale up the company, but in the early days, the goal should be not to hire,” says Altman.
“And one of the reasons this is so bad, is that the cost of getting an early hire wrong is really high. In fact, a lot of the companies that I’ve been very involved with, that have had a very bad early hire in the first three or so employees never recover, it just kills the company.
Early hires are tricky, argues Altman, because they are more like co-founders than employees. They will be entering the business when it is still young, so they need to be motivated by the same things that are motivating the founders.
If they need ‘management’ in the traditional sense, and if they care about things like working hours and number of leave days, they probably won’t work well in a start-up. So, when hiring an extra hand becomes an absolute must, you need to fight the urge to employ the first decent person you interview. Hold out for someone you could picture as your co-founder.
“Airbnb spent five months interviewing their first employee. And in their first year, they only hired two. Before they hired a single person, they wrote down a list of the culture values that they wanted any Airbnb employee to have. One of those was that you had to bleed Airbnb, and if you didn’t agree to that they just wouldn’t hire you. As an example of how intense Brian Chesky is — he’s the Airbnb CEO — he used to ask people if they would take the job if they got a medical diagnosis that they have one year left to live. Later he decided that that was a little bit too crazy and I think he relaxed it to ten years, but last I heard, he still asks that question,” says Altman.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was similarly careful about hiring in the early days. “Mark Zuckerberg once said that he tries to hire people that he’d be comfortable hanging with socially and that he’d be comfortable reporting to if the roles were reversed. This strikes me as a very good framework. You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but you should at least enjoy working with them. And if you don’t have that, you should at least deeply respect them. But again, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time around people you should trust your instincts about that,” says Altman.
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