Four hiring tips for scaling your startup team

You’ve proven your concept. You’ve created predictable systems. You’ve got sustainable profits. But, you can no longer satisfy demand. It sounds like your startup is ready to scale.

Before you jump right in and go on a hiring spree, there are things you need to consider before you onboard.  Angela Biener, the chief operating officer at nTrust, took the time to share with me her top hiring tips for de-frictioning and scaling a startup team.

Angela Biener Linkedin
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1. Raw Talent

A big assumption startup companies make is that they need to hire an expert. This can be costly in a lot of ways. Besides the finances and equity to cover their salary, a rigid mindset may not be what your business needs. Do you need help with direction, or with getting things done?

“Get fresh grads,” advises Biener. “They don’t have a lot of in-office experience, but they have fresh eyes on the industry and best trends. They’re also eager to learn, grow and establish themselves.“

The nTrust team is made up of 32 employees, of which there are core team leaders for each department and the rest are employees tasked at execution.

Where can you meet this driven talent? A great place to start is on university job boards and at hackathons.  At a hackathon, you can see who stands out, how they work with others, and what their business acumen in like when the hack is done.  Meetups can be great too, but they can be a be a huge time suck, and that great first impression doesn’t always equal a great hire.

2. Team Spirit

It’s important to bridge the new employee divide early on to maintain a culture that resonates throughout the company.  Besides preparing checklists and manuals to shorten the learning curve of new hires, Biener emphasizes how important it is to establish team synergy as early as the first day.

“We bring new people in and sit them down with the team and redo the interview. This gives them the opportunity to express what they’re core at, and what they need assistance with.  It creates a bond.“

The nTrust team also does a group social every week. You can see some of their debauchery on their @nTrust Twitter feed.

3. Get Real, Real Quick

During the initial stages of a startup, legacy employees wear many hats. This is great to spur growth, however, it isn’t scalable in the long term.  On the flip side, just because your company is ready to scale, doesn’t mean your employees are. This kind of change can be very difficult to cope with.

“Legacy employees may not always be ready to hand off some of those responsibilities, and that’s okay,” Biener says. She recommends implementing a transition period, which can be a specific period of time, from weeks to months.

Biener points out that by empowering the legacy employee as the point of knowledge, it can help alleviate any lingering trust issues with the new hire and role changes. It’s also important that the legacy employee sees the value in the transition, as part of the bigger picture.

4.  C is for Communication

Managing an international team isn’t easy, but it’s an integral part of many of today’s business operations (satellite offices, independent contractor etc). Biener’s 32 person team at nTrust includes an HQ in Vancouver and an eight person team in the Philippines.  The majority of them have been with the company for  more than two years.

So how does nTrust keep the team spirit alive across different time zones?

“A member of the core executive team in Vancouver visits our office in the Philippines at least once or twice a year to spend quality time with the staff. When we’re not there, we stick to a communication schedule which includes multiple touch points across the company.”

If you have just one point of contact, it can feel a bit like ‘Big Brother’ Biener advised. “With a communication schedule, everyone feels looped in and working together towards something greater. “

She also recommends keeping an internal blog between teams,  so they can see what’s going on both sides of the world.

Biener left me with a great piece of advice that applies to the four tips and a general best practice for maintaining an agile hiring process: don’t stop experimenting! Hack your own way to greatness. With the right team, anything is possible.

Ashley Huffman
Ashley Huffman
Startup, technology and girls in tech evangelist. Can be found behind the scenes at Nano Magnetics Ltd getting things done. Professional @Nanodots builder and Guinness World Record holder. Fan of life hacks, Scrum and WOW, in no particular order. Self proclaimed Twitter addict.

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