How can you put together the best possible team for your growing business? If you ask Gauthier Van Malderen, founder at Perlego, the textbook-subscription service, he’ll tell you that the process starts with your very first hire. “The people who you hire in the early days of a startup have to be problem solver, the people who will scramble together and figure out how to do something themselves with very little resources,” says Van Malderen.
And Van Malderen would know. His business, which makes textbooks affordable for university students, has seen phenomenal growth since it was founded just over a year ago. Based at one of WeWork’s, the office provider, 32 London locations, the company has already secured £500,000 in seed funding.
Van Malderen says his first few staffers were the ones who helped them “disrupt the textbook industry” with an innovative subscription model. But what other tips are helpful when you’re looking to grow your team and hire top talent? To find out, we asked WeWork members for their best advice. Here’s what they learned from their own experiences.
Build a human connection
Vernon Dias, founder of Made by Fire, the digital agency, says the important thing for him is whether the job candidate fits into the company culture. “We don’t do interviews or read CVs,” says Dias. “We have conversations with prospective team members. We are keen to see if they can lead with their soul first before they can join us. Building a human connection is crucial.”
At the same time, Dias is adamant that the relationship has to go both ways. As an example, even though his startup already employs more than 100 people, Dias still makes sure to send personal thank you note when someone does a great job or flowers on their work anniversary. “We are obsessive about this and as a result, do not have to worry about retention,” says Dias. “People rarely leave.”
Follow your instincts
Stephanie Roman, founder of the Roman Law Firm, says she follows her gut when it comes to hiring. “Go with your intuition when you meet and interview a person,” she says. “Some of the best employees I have hired are not always the top candidates, rather they are the ones that I connect with immediately after we talk about life experiences.”
Hire people you already know
Simon Douglass, founder of Curated Digital, the digital-marketing agency, prefers to hire from within his company. “My absolute number one tip is hiring interns with the idea of bringing them through as full-time employees,” says Douglass. “We have taken on eight interns in the last three years and hired all of them.” His secret is to give them real responsibilities, which always pays off in the end. “We give them a firm plan, get them working with clients right from the start, and by the time three months are up they’re so invested in the business hiring them is never an issue,” he says.
Consider where your business is at
Kate Kendall, CEO of CloudPeeps, says that you should take into account your company’s stage of development as not even a well-qualified candidate will thrive in the wrong environment. “Always hire the right person for the right stage of the company you’re at,” she says. “Startups have become glamorised so that a lot of people are keen to get involved. Working in a small or early-stage place isn’t for everyone.”
Kendall says the best way she’s found to gauge whether a person is right for your company is to work with them on a single project. “I’ve found building relationships with freelancers and ramping up that engagement is a great way to build a lasting fit,” she says.
Focus on diversity
Having a diverse staff can boost your ability to source the best people, increase your sales and make meaningful connections to your customers. While plenty of research backs this up, Bennie Kingwood, CEO of uLink, the software company, has personally seen how a wider range of ages, races and backgrounds can yield stronger results.
Make sure you diversify your staff,” says Kingwood. “I’m a person of colour in a field that lacks diversity, but many studies have proven a team with members of different backgrounds and genders can provide a wide range of opinions and thought processes that have proven to produce the best product results in multiple industries, but especially in tech.”
Scott Cooper, vice president of marketing at GO1, the online learning platform, says making people feel like an integral part of the company helps with retention. “Team activities and traditions, including celebrating achievements, should allow everyone—no matter their background—to be and feel like they are a key part of your team,” he says.
Hire the hustle
If you’re an established company, you probably have enough staff to train incoming employees. But young companies might not have an HR department, leaving them to hire people who can hit the ground running. “Early on it’s important to have people be proactive,” says Sean Hecker, managing partner at Acerium, the smart-trade company. “Time is limited, and you can’t waste it hand-holding every time.”
Look for passion
Scott Rosenbluth, CEO of Craze Management, the marketing company, looks for people who are passionate about his company’s future. “As a CEO, I wouldn’t expect to find someone who cares as much as I do, but I want to believe that they can take ownership of the work they will be doing,” Rosenbluth says. “If they are one of those grinders, you know they’ll work until they get the job done and go above and beyond in doing so.”
This article comes courtesy of WeWork, the co-working and office space platform for creators