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Richard Branson on Why Hiring Should Be Your No. 1 Job

If you get the right mix of people working for your company, it will have a far greater chance of success.

Richard Branson

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When you’re planning a start-up or preparing to launch a small business, it’s hard to know which tasks to delegate, which to delay, and which to tackle right away. One area where you should do a lot of the work yourself is hiring.

Learn to delegate

While the founder of a company usually wears many hats during the first few years – I handled everything from the secretarial work to the company accounts at my first businesses – you’ll have to delegate those duties as your business grows.

It might be hard to even imagine this right now, but you should be hiring with an eye to the day when you’re going to delegate even your CEO position and step back from the business’s day-to-day operations so that you can focus on making sure that your company is prepared for what’s next.

As I’ve written in previous columns, it was partly due to my dyslexia that I learned early on to delegate – there were some tasks that I struggled with. When we were getting ready to launch Virgin Atlantic, I realised how important the ability to delegate was going to be, since I had no experience in the airline industry.

Within weeks we had assembled a team of aviation experts to blend with our experienced Virgin managers. Together they worked on creating and delivering the level of service that I had hoped for.

Hiring the right people is a skill, and you get better at it with practice, but there are some good shortcuts that can help you learn quickly. Here are my tips for identifying great people and building your team.

Related: 6 Steps for Hiring Superstars

A great personality goes a long way.

During the job interview, you need to find ways to decide whether a candidate fits with your company culture. One great way to test this may be to ask two or three of the employees who would work with this person to join you at some point in the interview, and to come prepared with a few of their own questions.

When your employees start talking to the candidate, it’s time for you to listen. How is everyone getting along? While a little awkwardness and nervousness can be expected, look for someone who is fun, friendly and caring, because that is a person who likely understands teamwork and will help others.

A resume is just a piece of paper.

Next, the person’s resume can come into play. One good question to ask a candidate is what he didn’t include. While you may need to hire specialists for some positions, take a close look at people who have thrived in different industries and jobs – they are versatile, with transferable skills, and can tackle problems creatively.

Above all, don’t get hung up on qualifications. A person who has multiple degrees in your field isn’t always better than someone who has broad experience and a great personality.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg on Building a Killer Team

Take chances on people.

When you’re interviewing, it’s possible that a candidate may say something so interesting about your industry or business that you’ll want to keep talking after the interview is over. Her resume may not be quite right, and she may be a little different than everyone else ON your team, but this might be a good time to take a risk and hire her anyway.

Such people can seem like oddballs at first, but in my experience, they can become indispensable. A maverick who sees opportunities where others see problems can energize your entire group.

Whenever possible, promote from within.

If you’ve been hiring great people all along, when an executive or manager does leave, you should fill that job from within if possible. The key is to keep up a constant stream of strong candidates into all positions, especially the entry-level ones that your competitors might ignore.

At Virgin Active South Africa, we have made a point of hiring talented young people who may manage one of our businesses someday. Xiki Baloyi, for example, began her career at Virgin Active in 2003 as a receptionist – she had trained in sports management but couldn’t find a position on that career path.

But Xiki’s people skills attracted attention and she was soon promoted to the job of fitness instructor, where she demonstrated her commitment to getting members fit and motivated to train. In the last seven years she has been promoted several times; in 2013 she was named the assistant general manager of our new Alice Lane Health Club.

When to consider bringing someone new in.

If you’re in a situation where your business is becoming stale or stuck on a problem, it may be time for you to bring in talented people from outside the company.

Two of the Virgin Group’s higher-profile hires were John Borghetti, now the CEO of Virgin Australia, and Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO. John had worked at Quantas Airlines and Craig had worked at American Airlines, so they knew our competition well, and were able to give us a fresh take on our business.

Great hiring takes time and a healthy dose of curiosity. You need to meet a lot of people, ask them about themselves and their careers, and tell them about yourself and your company in turn. So relax and be yourself – the people you eventually choose are, after all, going to play big parts in your shared adventure of building a business.

What qualities do you look for in a potential new employee? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

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Hiring Employees

5 Skills Every Marketer Should Have On Their Resume When Applying To Start-Ups

Wow them with skill sets businesses need to get started.

Scott Langdon

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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.

Related: Employers Are Paying Freelancers Big Bucks For These 25 In-Demand Skills

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.

Related: Crucial Skills You Need To Be An Entrepreneur

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.

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Hiring Employees

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.

GG van Rooyen

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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.”

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

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.

Related: The 5 Traits (Some Surprising) I Look For When Hiring New Workers

“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.

Mark Zuckerberg

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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Hiring Employees

3 Steps To Find And Keep Top Talent In Your Business

In just ten short years digital solutions have revolutionised the way we do business — but have they changed the way you hire and engage staff? Here’s how you can use online tech to find and retain top employees.

Jacques Du Bruyn

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The world is more connected than ever before. This has opened up endless possibilities for businesses, and allowed companies to understand their markets better, to collaborate more effectively internally and target prospective clients and talent more accurately.

Having said that, I don’t believe that human resources as a discipline has been given the necessary attention online, especially alongside other disciplines such as marketing, sales and customer relationship management. Those who work in human resources, particularly within medium to large businesses, know that there are challenges when attracting the best talent and doing so within tight deadlines.

I’d like to share with you a simple model that I’ve developed that should help you effectively consider how HR management lives within the business and operates online. The model is called the TOE: Talent, Organisation and Employees. It answers the very simple questions of: How do you attract talent; retain your best employees; and enable your employees to engage with prospective talent — all encompassed by technology?

This model demonstrates how businesses can no longer rely on B2C or B2B communications, but that the key to successful communication is H2H: Human-to-Human. This is where empowering your current employees to attract talent on your behalf becomes powerful.

Related: The 5 Traits (Some Surprising) I Look For When Hiring New Workers

I break this model down into three steps: Attract, Retain and Engage.

1Attract: How does your organisation attract talent?

Here you outline the type of talent you’re after and you draw up a persona that includes the possible online ‘watering holes’ where this talent may be found. You may want to make use of the four dimensions of audience profiling as well: Motivational (the why behind the career); Demographic (the affluence and life stage); Attitudinal (emotions, preferences or needs states); and Behavioural (what are they doing online?).

From there you evaluate the type of content that would most likely resonate with this talent group. It may be something like an eGuide within their field of interest; a How To guide similar to this one; a video interview with a big player in the industry that speaks positively about your business.

You also want to showcase your business as an employer of choice and so this content needs to showcase the inner working of the business, the culture, the people and the ‘team’. From there you would use programmatic media buying (or platform marketing) to effectively target this talent group online.

With the use of offline and online data, targeting carefully selected channels, the ability to address this talent group personally and at scale is very possible.

Channels that work for attracting talent include:

  • LinkedIn: Particularly sponsored stories and inmail
  • Programmatic third party: Especially when an effective data management platform is incorporated, such as a tool like Google Double Click as a DSP (demand side platform) and Blue Kai as a DMP (data management platform)
  • Facebook: Focusing on dynamic content that can easily be shared.

2Retain: How does your organisation retain top talent?

If there’s one thing that can be said about social media and the Internet, it’s that it has opened doors of communication in a new way. Communication between top executives and personnel is what breaks down the barriers of hierarchy and builds the sense of ‘team’.

This is where you want to enable effective communication through tools like Facebook for business, the Intranet, and smaller huddle groups that can be formed on tools like Slack. This is also where you want to find ambassadors within different business units and clusters that can be catalysts for conversation between the different layers of hierarchy.

Through this process you want to equip your employees and make them believe they’re working for the best business in the industry. That’s why sharing success stories, sharing tools for career advancement, and competitions, is important.

Channels that work for retaining involve:

  • Facebook for business: Chances are your employees are on Facebook already
  • Slack: A collaboration tool for task teams
  • Intranet: With chat and forum capabilities.

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3Engage: Are you Enabling Your Employees To Be Your Voice?

We all know that when a brand talks about itself it’s not as believable as when our peers talk about a brand. That’s the gist here. You need to develop an online policy that enables your employees to engage with prospective talent online.

Related: Hiring Tip: Ask About The Candidate, Don’t Talk About The Position

From here you want to identify certain passionate employees that you feel most embody your brand values. The next step is to encourage them to connect with and converse with their peers online, thus portraying why working for your organisation is preferable. You want to equip your ambassadors with great content to share so that they engage as thought leaders.

Great content may come in the form of thought leadership blog posts generated by your organisation that can be shared by your ambassadors online.

Channels that work for engaging involve:

  • Twitter: This is the foremost tool for easily jumping into conversations online
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn groups which are industry-specific are the best place to get involved in conversations online and to connect with peers
  • Forums: Industry-specific forums are a great place to get connected and to share your expertise

The role of employees

Human resources is any business’s cornerstone. Even the most machine-heavy businesses need people. And that doesn’t mean only people who can do a job, but rather, people who make a difference in an organisation. That’s why attracting the best talent is not only a must, it’s imperative.

Through the above-mentioned model, I demonstrate how communicating from the organisation to the talent pool is only one piece of the pie. The most important piece is, without a doubt, the human-to-human element; the channel where your current employees become your ambassadors, and in turn start attracting talent on your behalf.

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