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
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.
Incredibly inspirational "mad scientist", theoretical neuroscientist, AI inventor and entrepreneur Dr Vivienne Ming advises a listener overwhelmed by ideas and possibilities that finding your purpose is more important than forcing yourself to focus and be someone you're not. She talks about the importance of recognising your weaknesses and having a compensatory strategy for overcoming them and why hiring complementary collaborators is essential to entrepreneurial success and to delivering solutions that bring real value to people. As a leader and creative collaborator, she sees her number one job as explaining the why - then to simply be a resource to enable her team to be even more successful.
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.
What are the risks and rewards of working in a startup? And what 3 things do startup employees most wish their CEO would learn? I'm joined by Regina Berengolts, my head of data in my last startup, and now leading the data science team at a high growth TV analytics scaleup for the employee perspective on getting the people part of startups right. We talk about the startup mindset we look for in employees, whether a startup job is right for you, CEO transparency and the questions potential hires should be ready to ask of founders. We also get into the importance of knowing what you are hiring for before you bring people in and why you probably don't actually need to hire a data scientist yet.
My three-time co-founder and product lead, Stephen Budd, shares some hard-learned lessons on what non-technical founders need to know in order to successfully lead a technology or software based startup. We talk co-founders, CTOs, product build and outsourcing software development before diving into all things co-founders. When you need a co-founder, where to find them, choosing friends vs strangers, how to set up agreements, who should be CEO and what to do if it is all going horribly wrong with your co-founder.
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.
The how, why and what you need to know about flexible and remote working with Dana Denis Smith. After realising her first business could not scale, Dana founded Obelisk Support to keep City lawyers, especially mothers, working flexibly around their personal commitments and to provide clients with quality legal support solution onshore. She now manages 1500 remote working lawyers, with over 1 million hours of capacity, and was named by The Times as one of UK's Top 50 Employers for Women and Outstanding Innovator by Legal Week for getting alternate ways of working accepted. "I don't care to be a sexy business owner, I want a sustainable business for the long-term".
Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, Leah Hutcheon of Appointedd, joins Vicky Brock to help an entrepreneur who is sick of bad advice. We discuss when to trust advisors, when to trust your gut, where to find good advice, how to grow your team and how to manage input from investors and board directors that you disagree with. As Leah says, you need to build and use your network and trust yourself to know that with any people decision - if it is a maybe, then it's a no.
Sales expert, author and entrepreneur Jim Sterne talks about how to land your first four sales, pricing those early sales, and how to hire and compensate sales professionals. He also advises founders on how to avoid the pressure to give away your time and expertise for free. He urges: "if someone ever tells you as a founder to hire a sales-person, listen to them - sales comes first. Sales is a skill that can be mastered over time, but that takes talent and experience - and of course - experience costs money!"
Serial entrepreneur Dennis Mortensen talks about how hyperfocus, urgency, radical transparency and a single KPI have become part of his process for building successful startups at scale. CEO of x.ai, whose AI personal assistants are changing the way meetings are scheduled, Dennis advises a founder looking to inject more pace into their startup team.
Retail technologist Cathy McCabe talks about finding good technical hires for your startup. She believes you need high-performance individuals who can wear different hats. Hungry, ambitious generalists who want to learn and do different roles - but with that comes the challenge of high maintenance.
As a former retail CIO turned tech startup CEO, she also advises how technology entrepreneurs can better sell to large retailers and brands. “Constantly be looking at the pipeline and how you’re growing the business - you have to focus relentlessly on your product. You can’t just hand the solution over and move on. You have to really help them adapt to make sure that what your solution is promising is actually delivered and continues to deliver.”