The joy of startup hiring


I’d thought of doing an article to talk about the my very own start up, The Talent Shark. In the last few weeks of getting everything setup, from company registration, licenses, office space and such, I guess before we know it, we’re up and running. Looking back on the last few weeks, it’s been an interesting experience. There wasn’t a moment to relax, but all the efforts, totally worth it!

The one thing that I’ve came to realize is that with every startup, the anxiety of the founder(s) in trying to get everything right, the turning into Uncle Scrooge, and the unstoppable determination of doing a doing a little bit more, comes together in a magical concoction of emotions. I call that the “Startup high”!

Having been in startups myself as an employee, and now embarking on this exciting journey as employee #1 with The Talent Shark, I realized that there’s an enormous amount of support Startup Companies required and is often underserved.

One such area is in the space of hiring. Of course, you can go to a regular recruitment firm, or hire your own team to do it. Having spoken with quite a number of startups in the last couple months, I realized that that’s not often the smartest thing to do. In fact, that is the scariest thing to do as you’re going to either spending a lot of money with the agencies or locking in a huge chunk of capex in hiring your own in-house team.

It was interesting. From those conversations came deals that allowed me to structure a solution that best fit the startup clients. There are many things that every startup has in common:

  • The need to hire for that few key positions
  • Fluctuating hiring needs across the different months/ quarters
  • Feeling the need to “hire” every role at the get go
  • Lack of internal expertise to navigate the HR/ Hiring space
  • Trying to keep cost down to the absolute lowest possible

While there are similarities, no two startups are the same. Everyone I talked to were at a different stage in their journey with different sets of assumptions. Every conversation opened my mind to countless possibilities and working with all these startups just gets your heart racing. The passion from the founders and their relentless drive to make it work is just infectious. It’s like spending time with young people, I felt years younger already!

For example, in one of the projects that we’ve just kicked off, we were working with a company of 2 staff, looking to ramp up across different countries. To kick it off, we looked at the business plan and derived the hiring plan aligned to their business projection. For a small project fee, we’ve not only able to provide in house counsel to the founders and also the muscle to deliver on the hiring. The savings they’ve derived from this engagement is tremendous.

We’ve also had the opportunity to consult with another company in a completely different stage in their startup lifecycle. They’ve in fact done tremendously well in getting their business off the ground and were looking to scale. However, they’ve reached a point where putting more resources into the team doesn’t directly equate to an even output. This is because, the nature of their business had taken on new complexity and this required a relook at their coverage model, evaluating the load and capacity in which the talent acquisition team is managing. In this project, we work closely with the team in mapping out their process and evaluating their hiring plan in the upcoming quarter. It’s just like when you visit the doctor, you get plugged into a machine that takes readings all over your body to paint a complete picture of your health. Here, we look at how much time, effort is taken at each stage of the process. Do keep in mind that different companies have different baseline, so it’s important not to take that “industry norm” and apply it lock stock barrel to the process.

Having that complete process map allows us to work with the management team in making the right changes and investing into the right areas to get that efficiency.

While we all would agree that it’s all about bringing in the right talent into the company, I think there’s a deeper level of engagement and a more process-oriented approach in making that startup hiring process more planful and less painful.

With this, I’m going to end today’s article here. I wanted to give a shout out to all those brave folks out there that’s taken the plunge in starting up your new venture! Do share with me your journey to date. I’m sure there’s a lot of learning I can take away from your stories.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Eric Wong

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.

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