Guest Post By Muthuri Kinyamu, Co-founder Social Edge Africa
Today I would like to share a few things I have learnt acquired in various roles and positions I held in small companies before I started my own business.
To put it clear, I am not a HR expert neither did I major in human resource management in campus but I have certainly acquired some experience when it comes to handling people as a marketer, manager, colleague to others and as well as working under someone.
To start off, we as people are all different, posses strengths and weaknesses as well as skills and various level of expertise and experience. Secondly we also have different levels of education, social standing and economic backgrounds.
To make things more interesting, some of draw satisfaction from jobs depending on the pay, responsibilities, level of challenge & involvement, recognition and some just want good titles. To some and most of us, what makes us go to work is hardly the money we are paid.
Having knowledge and skills on how to manage human capital/ talent is crucial for any start-up; any organization is as good as the people it keeps or attracts.
For start-ups though the team really does matter, besides the great idea, newly launched business your people do matter! Most angels and VC’s tend to also pay close attention to the people (team) and thus if you’re going to hack it you need to focus on the people you hire or attract to your firm.
With that brief I have five bullet points to share with you.
1. Don’t hire relatives or tribesmen
This helps a lot in getting the work done, it’s okay to hire friends (people you know or past colleagues) however this too may impair your judgment. If most of the employees in your company are from one tribe or family then mostly the company is seen more like a tribal/family entity and this may hinder your chances of attracting new talent or retaining great personnel. The point we are driving here is you need to have a balanced workforce for the greater good of the company.
2. Be firm but not horrible
People will forget what you did, but will not forget how you make them feel so just in case someone is on the receiving end don’t be too tough on them. However be firm with your judgment, let your juniors know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Be a cool boss but ensure work is done, timelines met and quality of work is never compromised because employees feel they can get away with anything!
3. Have job descriptions
In a startup maybe you have a team of 3 to 10 employees in your team; at times the founder will empty the bin or prepare coffee for other staff. This means that at times people do not necessarily stick to their role which is good. A marketing guy will do sales and PR and a bit of business development to help fill in gaps to make things work. In as much as this happens it’s advisable to have job descriptions to ensure people understand their scope of work and what is expected of them however as you do this ensure you encourage collaboration and teamwork where people not only stick to what is in their JD’s but also help in other areas where they have skills or knowledge in.
4. Hire specialists and seek advisors
It’s advisable if you want to fill out a key position go for a specialist; go for the best that you can afford if you expect tangible output. I know most start-ups survive with cheap interns; if you hire a design intern to fill a vacancy yet design input/position is crucial to the company then that may not work well especially in the long term. Interns are good for supportive roles as you train them to perfect their skills in their educational backgrounds. Also helps with understanding people & screening talent, abilities and skill sets before you place them in key positions whilst committing more resources towards their remuneration. Investors too look for a great team with the desired mix of skills and synergy to make things work. At times a start-up may not afford to hire talented guys or attract them but you can also give up equity to get a good co-founder. For the advisors you need to have a mix of people, say a lawyer, an entrepreneur etc all these people can really help you save much on costs especially when it comes to hiring consultants. Do ensure you get them interested in helping by clearly defining a value proposition. Remember it’s not just about you so stop being selfish, tell them what they stand to gain or make out of helping you. Shouldn’t be money always! Remember your advisors aren’t investors however keep it open, if either of them wants to invest in you can join on certain terms.
5. Establish a corporate culture
Culture is somehow your competitive advantage; simply put as ‘how things work at place X’. It’s about you, your people, culture, leadership, core values and vision and basically what people external to the organization think of you. The culture of an entity really matters a lot to the success of the entity. Set up values, morals, mission and vision of the company and ensure you instill that to the employees.
Remember employees borrow a lot from the founder/s of a company as he/she sets a culture which grows into ‘a way things are done here’ so do ensure your team picks the right things from you; have virtues, certain beliefs. See what Steve jobs did with Apple? His passion for great design? That lives on even after his death, employees still abide by the culture of the company because it’s deeply instilled in them and shall remain in decades to come.