Danae Shell and Vicky Brock discuss startup culture, why startup founders have to take responsibility for deliberately creating the culture in their business, and how building balanced, consistent teams can enable startups to thrive in an uncertain, complex environment. Danae explains why setting context is a far more useful employee skill to seek than vision-setting, and why there'll be no room for rockstars or genius a***holes in her new startup.
We cover commercial validation and product market fit and why this time round neither of us will be raising angel or VC investment for our new startups until we're certain that we have it:
"One of the key lessons I have learned so far is... for the love of God do not take scale up money until you are ready to actually scale, and you know in your bones that you are actually ready to scale. Because as soon as that scale up pressure comes, if you are still trying to iterate through anything that comes before scaling, you are just creating an ulcer or worse."
Danae Shell, is a veteran startup employee about to become a founder for the first time. A native Tennessean, she is a programmer-turned-marketer who has been part of the Scottish tech scene for 15 years, working at scale-ups Barrie & Hibbert and FreeAgent before their successful exits. Most recently was Chief Marketing Officer at Care Sourcer, scaling their marketing strategy and teams.
In this episode we discuss the lessons we have both learned across multiple tech startups, and what we will and won't be doing in our latest ventures as a result. We dive into the ways we'll be flexible, keep costs to a minimum, create a very deliberate startup culture, and build teams of consistent "doers" in order to get something in front of users as quickly as possible.
The blog post mentioned is the episode is: "Startup founders. You don't need adult supervision"
It’s been a while! I have been busy getting Vistalworks - my startup number 5 - off the ground and I know you know how all consuming that job is. But we’re 9 months in, the first version of the technology is live, I have an amazing team - and you’re questions keep coming (as do mine!) So it felt like the right time to record another 10 Entrepreneur Agony Aunt episodes, the first of 2019, starting with this one.
Building successful teams, and attracting, rewarding and retaining talent is the most requested topic on this podcast - even more so than funding - and in this episode we explore hiring interns and your first junior staff.
My guest is Joy Lewis, CEO of Adopt An Intern. AAI has just placed their 1500th candidate into paid work and in Scotland is the go-to choice for startups making their first hires. Supporting startups and socially-driven organisations to find the right candidates is in their DNA - I use them for my junior hires and I can’t recommend them and the talent they have helped us find highly enough.
Joy Lewis founded Adopt An Intern in 2009 and ran it as a programme within the Centre for Scottish Public Policy until 2012 when she it spun out to become a not-for-profit company. Since then AAI has widened their message of inclusive employment beyond internships to permanent positions and various social impact projects, including breaking down barriers for disabled graduates, women returners and Scotland’s growing minority ethnic population, promoting equality of opportunity in the UK job market.
In the episode we discuss:
- How to think about and prepare for your first hires
- What a good brief of candidate requirements looks like
- Why pay matters and what fair looks like in a cash strapped startup
- What does diversity and equality of opportunity mean, how do you create it, and why does diversity matter so much in a startup?
- Interviewing inexperienced staff, when you’re not necessarily that experienced yourself
- What next once you've found your intern/hire if you've never managed people before
- Tips to help more experienced founders build productive teams
Recorded in front of a live audience of Scottish business owners, Vicky Brock is interviewed by journalist David Ferguson about how and why - after the lowest point of her business career - she is now back with startup number five.
Vicky shares her process on how to start and grow a business, what she has learned across her very different companies and the 9 reasons she has discovered for why your startup may not be growing like you planned.
She explains why the first idea you have almost certainly is not the one that will become your business, why she prefers pain to delight and how her latest startup will achieve more in four months than her previous company achieved in 18 months. Because while it is relatively easy to create a product, and even fairly easy to build a product people will by once, it is actually very, very difficult to create something people will buy again and again. But that is what you need to achieve if you are going to build a business.
"I'm pleased I'm back here doing it all over again - I tried to start a bit too fast last time and we skipped over some important early steps in really finding product and solution fit. I'm not going to make that same mistake again. My whole team are focused on doing the on-paper work that means we test and validate our assumptions up front. And because we're starting in response to very specific challenges laid down by our initial paying customers, I'm starting my this new business with my customer as a full-time lodger, which is great!"
Alex Feechan, founder and CEO of outdoor clothing brand Findra, gives a masterclass on starting your own product or clothing business. From research, market validation, to knowing your customer and shrewd proto-typing of a capsule product range, she gets into the detail of how she spent a year de-risking and building customer and industry validation for her new clothing brand in its "pre-start" phase - all before spending any money. She explains why slowing down was so critical to success, because it let her really understand her customer needs, how she has learned to listen to and trust her gut instincts - and why fours years in and significant growth later, she might just be at the start line.
Alison Grieve, founder and CEO of G-Hold - a multi-purpose ergonomic handhold that can be placed onto any type of tablet or reader - sells her product worldwide through partners like Microsoft Surface, Amazon, Apple and Home Shopping Network. Having successfully cracked delivering sales volume, unit profitability, international IP protection, managing a complex export business and moving back to onshore manufacturing, she joins me to advise a founder looking for advice on how to internationalise their startup business and sales channels.
Organic farmer and premium food brand producer Endrina Maxwell is one of the most opportunistic and inspiring entrepreneurs to join me on the podcast yet. She explains how she has maximized value and competitive advantage at every stage of the food production process, from innovative fish farming to organic seed, feed and manure production - and in her latest venture the NutriSecret range of healthy, chemical-free food products and cooking oil. We cover brand, differentiation, pricing, benefits not features and how to effectively diversify to reduce risk and pursue market opportunities. She shares her personal tips on finding purpose, focus, and how she uses goals and planning to drive her onward.
Rachel Bews founded ALICAS, a startup with social purpose and ambitions to scale globally, and she joins Vicky Brock to discuss the particular factors 'for good' businesses need to think about as they startup and plan their growth. A social media professional, with an extensive background in content marketing, she also advises an entrepreneur struggling to get an impact from their social marketing efforts that perception is reality - founders can't afford to be so busy working on their startups that they delay working on the business and personal brands, as they are the same thing. She provides some tips, tools and organic & paid approaches that will help young businesses get more impact from their social media and social purpose efforts - and announces her new Tags-On clothing appeal, to help women fleeing domestic violence to dress with confidence and dignity.
Entrepreneur Dr James McIlroy is founder & CEO of EnteroBiotix, an award-winning and rapidly expanding biotechnology company that he started while at medical school. EnteroBiotix is focused on a whole new field of science and medicine, using the body’s own microorganisms to prevent and treat debilitating infections and diseases. James joins me to discuss practicalities of managing an incredibly busy workload, how he learned to delegate and focus on high yield outcomes - and why he has decided that now is the time to step back as CEO and bring someone in to help him scale the business, while he continues his medical training.
CEO, Chairman and NXD Kenny Fraser advises a solo founder having an existential crisis about what their role as CEO should be, urges entrepreneurs not to neglect their own personal and professional development - and advises a founder to forget everything they've heard about sales and commissions, in order to ensure their team remains aligned to common goals and a shared compensation structure. Great insights on people, teams, incentives and the growth mindset.
How do you attract talent to your startup when resources are limited? Kirsty Mackenzie, founder, award-winning entrepreneur and recruitment specialist, explains how to find, reward and retain employees in your startup. She explains how to build your very first team, what to do if you get it wrong, why you need to think very carefully about company values and the skills you need before you hire and the different things to think about once your business grows.
As businesses grow, they hit key inflection points that mean the old tactics don't work anymore. The interplay of people, structures and process have to be updated as a startup develops and so you have to change how you and your people operate within your company. Mark gives very practical advice on how to recognize and survive these inflection points that increase frustration and reduce productivity. He explains how devolving decision making, growing your own people, encouraging them to look outside for inspiration and setting an expectation of world-class excellence maximizes the chances of surviving the organizational challenges that come with growth.