Growing Your Startup – Tools, Culture and Focus

By Ramli John

5 min read

For months, you’ve operated your small business with your business co-founder as lean and mean as possible. You’ve gotten this far together, but you’ve finally hit a breaking point where in order to remain competitive and grow your business, you need to hire someone.

If you’re looking to hire, you’re not alone.

A recent Intuit Canada survey found that almost a third of small business owners are set to make new hires. They are optimistic about their futures, with 32% of people saying their business is growing and 53% saying that they’re “holding steady”.

Before you bring anyone on board, you need to understand the extra time and cost that’s involved.

To help you navigate through the murky waters of the hiring processs, Startup Canada in partnership with Intuit Canada held its inaugaral live streaming panel discussion on “Growing Your Startup.”

Our panel consisted of:

It was hosted by Sean Stanleigh, the Globe and Mail Small Business editor. Read a summary of what they shared:

Hiring Today

One of the most overlooked aspect of hiring today is human behaviour. “Hiring has been badly broken. It’s not technology that’s broken. It’s human behavior around hiring that’s broken,” Baldwin says. “People tend to be attracted to the same people, which makes it hard to build a complementary team.”

We need to understand the bad behaviors and work around them.

According to Crawford, “The climate for hiring is fantastic for small business. There is a strong pool of candidates.”

“But where we go wrong,” said Crawford, “is that we need to change the discussion from ‘Is there a talent pool, or where do we go to find that talent pool’ to instead, ‘how do we reach that talent pool?’”

There are different ways to reach the talent pool using new tools and technology.

Social Media As a Recruiting Tool

One of the issues most discussed by the panel was how small businesses needed to embrace social media as a tool to look for the best candidates. In this age of technology, smart recruiters, especially small businesses who have to compete with big brands, are now using all manner of techniques and media to find and attract top talent.

Gone are the days when you “go out and post a job and people will come to you,” Crawford said. “It’s no longer a one-way transaction. Technology and social media are completely enabling small business owners to reach out to a broad talent pool around the world.”

Small businesses shouldn’t just use social media during hiring season.

As Ben Baldwin, founder of ClearFit, explains, “Having a social media presence helps your business to get visibility and to differentiate your culture from big brands. It can help you attract the most talented candidates.”

Dave Thomas, social media manager at Intuit, knows the value of social networking in recruiting only too well. He got his last three jobs through his LinkedIn profile.

Share Company Culture to Attract the Perfect Fit

When asked what the biggest challenge was for small businesses, Crawford answered, “It is scaling the business.”

“Technology is going to enable companies to grow in a different way. Companies should be asking themselves about the culture they have or want to create.

Companies will start realizing that the actual team that they need is probably relatively smaller than they think. So the perfect fit is even more important.”

Crawford suggested that companies should be asking themselves, “What are our core values and whom do we really need on our team?”

For the other tasks or roles, companies should find other ways to leverage resources globally. Technology will help you reach those talent pools differently. Do open calls to communities to get certain tasks done. But when you are hiring a person into the company, you need them to fit into the culture that exists.

According to Margo Crawford, “When it comes to hiring, medium size companies mature and change, they can’t just repeat what they did when they were small. Companies need to recognize that conditions have changed.”

She continued, “You need to reach out and sell who you are as an employer (culture of company). Once you reach talented people, you need to speak to what is compelling about your culture.”

Baldwin added that, “Social media campaigns are now able to show the culture of the company and how they differ from the bigger companies/brands. Use the element of social good (elements of your culture), to attract talent. People like to go home after work and talk about the great company/cause that they work for.”

Recruiting Focus

Finding the right person can make or break a small business. Time and expenses are spent on managing people that don’t fit. Baldwin’s advice to small business owners, prior to making their first hire, is to write down two lists:

  • What you want in a team member
  • What you don’t want in a team member

Seem simple enough?

“Understanding what you need and don’t need has the biggest influence in your business. Your business strategy is messed up when you don’t have the right core people. Avoid mistakes rather than fix them,” said Baldwin.

Crawford agreed with Baldwin, “You need to understand your business, what you want and don’t want first.” Then she added, “What are your milestones you need to hit? Think about your values personally and the truths you want people to know about your business. By making those front and center, they will help you to attract the person that will be a good fit.”

Crawford warned that the cost of hiring the wrong person “Isn’t just about letting someone go or just the financial cost to the business. The wrong hire can also become distracting to the strategic direction of business.”

What’s on your two lists of  ‘want’ and ‘don’t want’?

For more information from this Google+ hangout, you can watch the live stream video of this panel discussion here.

Ramli John is co-founder of FamilyTales, which is helping busy moms capture and celebrate richer stories about their children right now to pass on for generations. He’s a University of Waterloo Computer Science and Ivey MBA alum. He blogs regularly at http://www.RamliJohn.com. Read more about him here.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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