I've mentioned in previous blogs that I like to take time out regularly to review where 1-1 Recruitment Group is against our expectations and objectives, how our fantastic team is getting on, and generally take stock. It's when I remove myself from the white noise of day to day preoccupations that I start to see things clearly and do all my best planning.
I'm not often given to looking back, but just occasionally I reflect on how far the business has come over the years. And recently, whilst answering some questions for Recruitment International Magazine, I had to cast my mind back to my experiences beginning the business.
Personally, I never learned more about my own industry than when I was starting my own company. I learned valuable lessons about recruitment itself, and quite a few more about business in general. I've tried never to forget them.
Being involved in a start-up is both exciting and scary, so for anyone out there considering it, or perhaps about to take the bold step of making an early hire, I thought I'd share some of my experiences.
1. Start-ups are a lesson in hiring!
When you become big enough to hire your first employee...well, never are the various challenges and opportunities of hiring greater.
It's when you hire your first employee that you recognise just how much is invested in any employee and how essential the traits and qualities of a good employee are. As companies grow and job specifications become more and more specialised, it is easy to lose sight of some of the more fundamental truths of hiring – a particular favourite of mine is that if you find someone with the right attitude, the rest will follow.
If you doubt the importance of the so-called "unteachable" qualities like energy, enthusiasm, positivity, willingness, grit, good humour, perseverance and so on, just try making your first hire somebody without all of them.
A start-up company needs a trooper: someone who can get involved in everything, pull their sleeves up and muck in, as well as provide any more specialist skills they've been hired for.
The risks involved in hiring your first employee are so significant that it's not surprising so many people take a friend or former close business associate as their first hire. But there's a danger here, too. Not all friendships can survive the rigours of work, nor the experience of one person being another's senior or manager.
It's essential that any new business owners have "the conversation" with a new hire regardless of how well they know them. A serious business owner will want to set out their expectations, vision, strategy and ambition for the business with any new hire regardless of who that hire is – and any employee worth their salt will want to listen. To avoid having this conversation is disrespectful both to the individual and to the business, and probably means you don't have a plan to speak of, anyway! A good hiring and on-boarding process looks pretty much the same regardless of the size of a business: its hallmarks are a clear and defined process, excellent communication, mutual trust and shared goals.
The responsibilities of being a first-time employer must not be taken lightly: you'll be subject to employment law and must provide for time off, holiday and sick pay, as well as being responsible for tax, health and safety, NI, payroll and more.
2. Technology cannot solve all your problems (no matter how modern your business)
I was an experienced recruiter when I launched the 1-1 Recruitment Group, but starting a recruitment business from scratch was a useful exercise in re-learning just how much of what I do is about picking up the phone or, better yet, talking to people face to face.
I encountered many technology vendors who suggested their product could do my job for me, but whilst helpful, technology can be a diversion. For me, it will never replace conversations, face-to-face meetings and the high-touch activities that allow you to get a quality client brief or gain a deep understanding of client cultures or candidate needs and skills.
How much start-ups embrace technology depends on their growth plans and budget, and of course, used correctly, technology can facilitate growth. In the modern hiring and talent sector, a good contact database is a sensible early investment. With the advent of GDPR it's more important than ever to understand your data from the outset.
3. You must adapt your lifestyle to your means
Unless they're very lucky or have some major investment, start-up owners have to make a big lifestyle adjustment and get used to earning a lot less than they're used to for a while! In full-time employment you're always earning. When you work for yourself you soon realise that time is money. You have to gain confidence about the value of your expertise, and charge accordingly. For some people, simply asking clients for money is a culture shock at first.
4. You must be self-motivated and focused
Not everyone is self-motivated, so you have to keep the momentum going by continually reviewing and evaluating your progress and goals. You must keep up to date with legislation and other external factors that might impact on you.
If (like many) you start your business from your home, you must get used to convincing your social network or family that you're actually working! It takes self-discipline to resist distractions; structure and routine helps a lot here.
5. You ARE your brand
And of course, you have to remember that you are always your brand. That can affect how you behave pretty much everywhere you go!
Starting out with starting up? We can help!
1-1 Recruitment's hiring expertise doesn't extend only to medium and large brands or established local businesses. We're skilled at hiring for start-ups too, with the ability to get under the skin of a company and the experience to relate to the challenges you may be facing. So if there's anyone out there whose start-up is moving onto the next level, we could find you your next superstar. And we understand the unique and special challenge - and excitement - of being a start-up!