Ask any successful tech start up what their biggest headache is and they’re likely to say hiring the right people….
I met with an old friend this week, a Director at one of Manchester’s biggest tech success stories who advises many startup businesses on attracting investment. I was taking the opportunity to pick his brains on which startups are the ones to watch in 2017 as a follow up my previous article on the tech outlook in Manchester this year . It was at this point he mentioned how many potentially great businesses fail because they have not factored “people” into their growth plans. They may have a sustainable business model with premises, sales and advertising costs considered but ultimately, it’s people and more importantly the right people that are going to fuel growth.
Some startups learn this lesson when trying to attract investment, whether VC or Angel Investors, it’s notoriously hard to get these people to part with their cash and whilst they may be impressed with your product they’ll want a rock-solid plan on how you intend to meet demand with hiring the right people with the correct skills and cultural fit. This is becoming even more prevalent in Manchester where the curve of supply and demand becomes ever more unbalanced– simply supplying your investors with the salary bands of certain skill sets is no longer enough- they want to know in detail where these people are going to come from.
So how can new startups protect themselves from falling into this trap?
1) Tapping into the network of new hires – Whilst many entrepreneurs will have built a large network they can call on during their initial growth phase, beyond this it’s important to ask your employees to be your recruiters. Many businesses offer incentives for your employees to introduce their friends/ex colleagues, similarly If they run or attend events ask if you can tag along one evening.
2) Be realistic about recruitment costs – for example the possibility of taking on a contractor if you cannot find the right permanent candidate quickly. Whilst contractors can seem costlier on paper, having someone who can hit the ground running at short notice can be invaluable for filling short term skill gaps whilst not slowing down growth.
3) Build a small network of trusted recruiters and headhunters – and importantly involve them in the process from the outset. Too often clients simply dictate a job specification and the recruiter nods their head in agreement as they fear upsetting or losing the client if they disagree. To successfully find the right candidates this relationship should be two way and the recruiter must understand not only the skills you need but the working culture and common goals of the business.
4) Set realistic timescales for finding the right people – the more senior appointments are generally more difficult to find, if you’re using recruiters sound them out a month or two before you start recruiting so they can give you realistic timescales and discreetly sound out candidates in their network.