Proceed Strategically When Staffing Up

Congratulations! You’ve just nailed down the funding for your new startup that is really going to get your venture moving toward world domination.  What should you do with all of that hard-won capital?

 

Contrary to common practice (and even more popular thought), one place it should not go for the budding startup venture is toward growing personnel too quickly.

 

“Too many startups in the early stages jump to adding as many people as they can, often as cheaply as they can,” said Jeb Ory, CEO of Phone2Action. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

 

Ory learned the hard way about ill-conceived staffing plans in a previous venture.  After landing initial funding, he went to the ranks of recent college grads and was initially delighted at how many bodies he could add in what was a decidedly employer-friendly labor market.

 

What he didn’t know then – and what he vowed to never repeat – was how much cheap labor would actually cost him in lost time, productivity and ultimately, the opportunity to grow.

 

“We found out very quickly that most of these young people didn’t have enough work experience,” he said. “They were talented and they were cheap, but they hadn’t done the kind of work we needed them to do. We lost far too much time and effort having to absorb that learning curve.

 

“I’m far less concerned about getting people to work for less than market. Yes, we have to be thrifty and yes, it’s good to save money. But talent is not one of the places where you should try to save.”

 

At Phone2Action, co-founder Ximena Hartsock, who had vast experience managing large teams as a former Washington D.C. Agency Director, helped craft the company’s hiring approach.

 

“Our philosophy is to surround ourselves with the best possible people,” Hartsock says. “We see talent as our number one asset, so hiring right is crucial to developing the team. Talent is one of the biggest investments you can make for your company, one with the biggest returns.”

 

A concrete example of Phone2Action’s unique approach to personnel is the full day’s tryout all applicants serve at the company’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. There, they work on projects and interact with the Phone2Action team in an environment that simulates a real workday.

 

As Hartsock noted, “You can’t make sound staffing decisions based on just resumes and interviews, you must simulate real work scenarios to see how the candidate responds.”

 

Candidates for the technology team must also complete coding projects before and during their D.C. visit. Patrick Stoddart, Chief Technology Officer, creates modules for programmers to complete that measure content knowledge and application on the Phone2Action framework.

 

The three executives said this approach reveals candidates whose skillsets are well-rounded and flexible, thus better able to adapt to the fast-changing environment in which the company operates. As Stoddart put it, “We look for drive, genius and ability to work in teams. If people can’t work together we can’t get anything done, so even if you are a brilliant coder but you do not listen to our customers, you can’t help us succeed.

 

“I think the progress we have made at Phone2Action is the result of the diversity in our team,” he said. “We all come from very different walks of life so we have different perspectives on things. It is our openness that makes us stronger.”

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