Small Business

5 Tips For Hiring A Dream Team

It’s estimated the average person will spend 90,000 hours over their lifetime at work. That’s more than one-third of their life, surrounded by people and processes that they may or may not love. And with the average resignation costing employers 33% of that person’s salary, business owners are looking for tactics they can employ to ensure the people they hire are the best possible fit for their business!

So, as a small business owner, often with limited resources, how do you hire the best staff for your brand? What should you be looking for in candidates, and what actions during the interview process can aid you finding that perfect hire?

This month Fiona Killackey of My Daily Business Coach tackles the challenge of finding and hiring great staff. She speaks with our very own Lucy Feagins, (founder of TDF, of course!) alongside Paris Thomson, founder of motion lab SIRAP, to uncover what they’ve learned about hiring the best!

Fiona Killackey

Team TDF! Back row: founder and editor Lucy Feagins; advertising and sponsorship manager Chelsea Hall; graphic designer and styling assistant Ashley Simonetto; researcher and staff writer Miriam McGarry. Front row: managing editor Elle Murrell;  partnerships manager Alice Johnson; news editor Sally Tabart; and art director Annie Portelli. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Fiona Killackey
31st of May 2019

FIONA’S Quick Tips For Great Hires

1. Understand what’s missing

Many small business owners began their business after working in larger / corporate roles. For that reason, there is often a feeling they must hire to a similar structure i.e. a CFO, CMO, COO etc. Instead of following the status quo, small business owners should be setting some time aside to really consider what’s missing from the business in terms of experience, networks, knowledge and skill set. An easy way to do this is to create a Skills Matrix (a template for which you can download here.

Consider all the outputs your business needs now and for the future. List them in column A. Then work through whether or not your business and its current hires have the Skills (column B), Experience (column C) or Interest (column D). Review the gaps and look at what sort of role might encompass most of those things. Remember, just because someone has experience or skills in an area, it does not mean they’re interested in it enough to elevate your business.

2. Who do you already know?

Both Lucy and Paris suggest asking your own networks for referrals and recommendations, as it can uncover gold (see their thoughts below!). In addition to reviewing your personal networks, email contacts and social media, consider downloading your LinkedIn contacts. Many times people change jobs from the time we connect with them on LinkedIn, so it’s worth downloading this twice a year to see who you might know in the role you’re looking to fill,or who might be able to suggest someone for that role.

3. Get social

Gone are the days of posting a job ad on the major players’ websites. Savvy small business owners today are using social media and email marketing to find the best candidates. It makes sense to look for candidates who are already familiar with your business. You may wish to post on IG Stories, showing where they would work and even interviewing other staff they would meet about what it’s like to work in your office/studio. Likewise, sending the job description via your weekly email or newsletter is a great way to raise awareness and potentially encourage strong applications. These channels are free, and should be utilised in the first instance.

4. Embrace the interview process

While many small business owners get nervous themselves when conducting interviews, remember the reasons why you’re doing them. Don’t rush the process and don’t be afraid to hold multiple interviews, particularly for senior roles. At a minimum you should have one meet-and-greet interview to get a feel for the person and explain the role, a second interview where they present an example of their ideas for your business, ie a basic marketing plan, or an example of copywriting… and a third interview to introduce them to other members of staff. As the business owner you may not be the person working alongside them and it’s important to get a sense of how your team feel about the candidate.

 5. Start as you mean to go on

Clarity and direction is crucial for someone coming into a business. This means taking the time to consider 30, 60 and 90-day goals for their role. What do they need to achieve? Make this clear. Likewise, set the tone from the beginning for an approachable and pleasant work environment. This may mean leaving a handwritten welcome note or cupcake on their desk on their first day, or simply taking them out for a welcome lunch /breakfast. Small actions like this go a long way to build employee satisfaction.

Fiona Killackey is business consultant, author and mentor for My Daily Business Coach. You can sign up to her weekly email full of small biz insights and tips here and enrol in her brand new Marketing for Your Small Business online course here.

Dreams, goals, and things we’re getting done! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Dreams, goals, and things we’re getting done! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Our meeting/lunch party table,  custom designed and made by Gordon Johnson, chairs from Thonet. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Lucy and Elle at TDF’s meeting/lunch party table, made by Gordon Johnson, chairs from Thonet. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Paris in the edit suite! Photo – Eve Wilsonfor The Design Files.

Paris in the edit suite! Photo – Eve Wilsonfor The Design Files.

You may recognise these beautiful shelves from Open House 2017 – thanks Gordy! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Paris on set, and no she doesn’t always dress to match the location! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

You may recognise these beautiful shelves from Open House 2017 – thanks Gordy! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

IN PRACTICE: How To Hire Great Staff

Two Melbourne-based small business owners who have successfully been able to hire – and importantly retain – great staff (if we do say so ourselves!) is our own founder, Lucy Feagins and Paris Thomson, founder of SIRAP – who we have had the pleasure of working with multiple times over the past decade. We asked Lucy and Paris for their top tips on finding, and keeping, great staff.

What’s been the process of hiring at your small business? How has this changed since you first began?

LUCY: Initially, when my business was in the early stages, my first few hires came through word of mouth and recommendations from other small business owners within my network. For instance, Lisa Marie Corso, who was my first full-time employee and my right-hand-woman for five years, connected via a mutual friend, and we met for coffee… and a casual job quickly become a full-time hire. It was at a time when my business was so small and so unstructured, I didn’t really know what I needed – I just knew I needed help! Lisa quickly made herself invaluable and was a huge part of the early growth of TDF.

These days, my business is a little bigger and the hiring process more structured. When hiring I advertise on our social media channels, and on LinkedIn.. and sometimes on The Loop. It’s a fine balance – you want to reach the best possible candidate, but you don’t want to cast the net so wide that you’re wading through 100’s of applications.

A big part of ensuring the right people apply, is being really clear in the job description about what the role entails and what you’re looking for.

PARIS: For me, hiring staff is the most challenging aspect of running a business. In our line of work (film production) it’s so important that our team represent the SIRAP brand, and with that comes the eye and the skillset, but also the presentation, the ability to professionally liaise with clients on set and also play well with the rest of the team. When I started the business almost six years ago I had freelanced for a few years before, and the only staff member was myself! I’ve been fortunate to have organically grown the business over the years and through that, hired a team who I’ve had the luxury of working with on a freelance basis before offering them a full-time position. Now, the business has other demands which require a faster approach to recruitment, which means that we don’t often have the ability to have a freelance arrangement with prospective staff before hiring them – it’s a much more structured approach.

After posting the job on creative recruitment sites like The Loop, across our social channels and spreading the news via word of mouth, we request a CV and reel on application. We shortlist and invite successful candidates in for a panel interview with myself and some of the team to ensure we can bounce thoughts and opinions between each other, making notes along the way. We look for presentation, attitude and communication skills. From there successful candidates will be invited to participate in a small practical assignment such as producing a short piece of film content with our team, to get an understanding of how they approach a job, how our personalities play together, and how they work ‘on the tools’. We narrow down to 2-3 candidates, speak to their references and either make a final decision or if we have any questions, have one last meeting or phone conversation together to discuss any other elements around the role, experience or approach.

The offer is then made and the deal is done!

What has been the biggest lesson you have had to learn when it comes to hiring great staff?

PARIS: Make notes straight after the interview, don’t schedule too many interviews back to back in one session, and trust your gut on your first interaction with the candidate – this will be indicative of the first impression that your clients will likely experience with that person, too, and this will reflect your brand.

What advice would you give to small business owners looking to hire (non-virtual) staff for the first time? In your experience, is it better to look for skills match or personality fit?

LUCY: I’ve always been a believer that personality fit is as important as skill set. Because people can be trained and learn a lot on the job, but if someone doesn’t fit in personality-wise, that will always be a challenge.

I would say when hiring for the first time, hone your job description; make sure it really accurately reflects the role and the workplace. Then, advertise the position, give 2-3 weeks for people to apply, and give yourself time to go through every application and respond to people personally.

If it’s a role with specific skills required, consider having shortlisted applicants perform a ‘test’ before the interview stage. If it’s a writing role, I give them a little assignment to see how they respond. You want to have a final shortlist of no more than about 5-6 people for the interview stage.

I interview in a very casual way, it’s more of a chat. A lot of it is intuitive; I just know when I meet them if they have the right ‘vibe’! The main questions I ask myself are: Do I think this person can do the job that’s on offer? And, will they fit in with the team? I realise that sounds a bit wishy-washy, but I would say I’ve been super happy with every single hire I’ve ever made, and I have never had to fire anyone! If anything, often people I hire for casual or part-time roles are so amazing that I end up finding a way to make them full-time!

PARIS: If your first hire is the first person (apart from yourself) joining the business, you will likely work closely with them; personality is important but you need to focus on what skills and value they are bringing to your business too, and how these will help you reach that next milestone.

If hiring for a business that already has an existing team, skills are important but ensuring the person is a team player and that their attitude will work well with the others, is really important. Remember – a candidate’s personality is about working well together, not partying well together!

SIRAP are looking to hire a Senior Videographer/Director. Find out more here.

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