Growing pains and gains; hiring employees

After an exciting start putting your bright idea into business with lots of room for creativity and even freewheeling, you suddenly find yourself in a position of hiring the first staff. Now you also have to manage people and an organization. On 18 April the StartUP ScaleUP MeetUP of StartupUtrecht was the place to be in order to turn growing pains into gains.

Heerd Jan Hoogeveen opened the meetup explaining that these sessions are all about learning from other or former startups. And the crowd was eager to learn on this sunny afternoon.

Main challenges

Jos van Snippenberg hit it off with some questions for the audience. One of them being: what are the main challenges with regard to hiring employees? Some of the answers:

  • Keeping the good and smart ones and finding new qualified ones
  • Employees are not as risk-taking, sometimes even risk-averse, are not entrepreneurial. So how to keep them motivated?”
  • What should I offer them, in salary and other benefits?“
  • “How do you get everybody chasing after the same WHY?”

Entrepreneur’s Dreams and the Dream impact canvas

Van Snippenberg: “Throughout the company you want the same energy you had when you started the company. And I would like to provide you with handles to deal with hiring employees”.  No surprise, because with his company Playmakers, Jos wants to build meaningful companies, by helping business leaders and founders.

Van Snippenberg uses the Dream impact canvas that consists of 5 parts and questions:

  • Why did you start your company? Start with the question of why you started your company in the first place? What is your mission, purpose or dream? This comes down to a small set of leading principles.
  • Founder energy: what are your qualities and pitfalls as an entrepreneur or founder that you bring into the company?
  • DNA: what personal traits do employees bring to the company?
  • Impact: what impact do you want to cause in society?
  • Ambition: What do you need to realize the desired impact?

Van Snippenberg: “If you are clear on the principles, people can relate to them and if they are aligned, than people with a certain DNA that fits your company will be attracted. They choose their own roles and have an intrinsic focus on contributing to the company’s core values. They will monitor themselves, there is no need for an HR manager so far”. This, in short, is the Playzone that Van Snippenberg tries to create for every company in every growth stage. He continued: “When you want to hire employees, ask them to reflect on your leading principles. What do they mean to them, how do they interpret them?

A dream of reality?

Some critical questions were asked by the attending startups. Such as:

  • If the business is growing, doesn’t that mean you have to hire skills instead of DNA?
  • And aren’t you depicting recruitment heaven, a model and advise that in the light of daily practice and the current labour market doesn’t stand a chance?

Van Snippenburg endorsed the fact that every stage is different, but that the people you hire should always be aligned with your most important principles. Otherwise, the risk of losing people or having to let them go is bigger. The next speakers, however, entrepreneurs from the Utrecht Region, supported the vision of Van Snippenburg. 

Entrepreneurial experience

As always in the StartUP ScaleUP MeetUPs, there were founders sharing their experiences. On this day the entrepreneurs were Pierre Vermeulen (Solease) and Sjoerd Wennekes (Active Cues/Tovertafel). When it comes to entrepreneurial dreams both presented relatable ambitions:

  • Sjoerd Wennekes: “We want to activate elderly with late-stage dementia and we want to create 10 million moments of happiness ever day
  • Pierre Vermeulen: “We want to cover every suitable roof with solar panels in order to ultimately provide clean energy for everybody”.

Hiring is terrifying

Both entrepreneurs hired staff already. Wennekes:

When I hired the first employee, that was pretty cool. But also terrifying. All of a sudden I was not only responsible for my own income, but also for that of another person and his family. That responsibility is something you cannot take lightly”.

Vermeulen shares that thought:

In our case and in most cases the chance of going bankrupt multiplies significantly. But hiring that first employee was also one of the best moments. I thought it was the first time doing it. But I wasn’t the first doing it. So I asked around and discussed with other entrepreneurs”.

The tips of these entrepreneurs:

  • Hire based on soft skills, principles and eagerness to learn and not diplomas in order to attract people that do not fit standard profiles. Those employees will prove most valuable.
  • Do not hire people for one task or role but rather a jack of all trades that share your purpose and ambition.
  • Make sure you have a soundboard or mentor. Better yet: an advisory board with several people, looking at your startup from different perspectives.
  • Make a list of the top 50 people you want to talk with about your company. You will be surprised how many people are willing to talk to you, as long as you have clear genuine goals and values.
  • Once you go from startup to scaleup, the game changes and you have to deal with procedures and standards. That’s when you have to think about hiring managers. But also make sure the culture, the spark, the reason why you started the company doesn’t disappear.
  • And read Steve Blank’s book ‘Startup owner’s manual’ and that of Verne Harnish: ‘Scaling Up’.

Fit for the future

Playmaker Van Snippenberg called for the audience to get fit for the future by first stating a clear and genuine mission or dream, which will attract the right DNA, passionate people. “Then, create the right conditions. Make use of frequent dialogues and remember, the culture of a company is not something of a department, it is something of the founder. The team should be aligned with the leading principles. And create trust and an environment to discuss things like passion, self-efficacy and motivation to grow. And avoid at least part of the waste of human capital”.

Next meetup!

Save the date! A combination of content and networking. The next meetup is 16 May from 17:-00 - 18:00 hrs, followed by networking drinks. Place to be is Dotslash, Europalaan 100.

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