3 fast-fixes for your startup people woes

I’ve always had a deep respect for people brave enough to take the plunge and start their own businesses. Perhaps it’s because I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have personally experienced the joys and the sorrows of risk taking.

Both my parents had their own businesses and it was a rollercoaster ride of uncertainty then success, then more uncertainty. My Yiddish grandfather always used to say “one day we’re eating the turkey and the next day we’re eating the feathers.”

I chose a more predictable career path in human resource management and organisational psychology and spent 15 years working in a range of small to medium sized businesses harvesting experience by day and studying at night so that I could one day muster the gravitas (and courage) to be “independently employed”.

I was in conversation with the CEO of a successfully disruptive Finance Tech startup last week and he asked me what I believed to be the main people challenges facing small organisations who employ fewer than 50 people and looking to establish a global footprint.

This is what I’ve learned so far.

Find Good People

And I’m not talking about over-achiever Top Graders who command prohibitive salaries to match equally prohibitive egos. Smaller organisations need entrepreneurial, emotionally resilient people who like to roll up their sleeves and get stuck-in.

Read more: How to keep the excitement going in your startup

The kind of down-to-earth people mindful of their work habitat and the eco system they’ve joined. They also model the right behaviours so others learn vicariously through them. Hard to find but these people are worth gold because they don’t get stuck on job title and level. They’re hungry for challenges and comfortable with ambiguity in other words they will take on work beyond their comfort level and job grade.

The trick is hunting them down and being able to identify them in a cv and interview “line-up”. Hiring managers need to be able to spot the talent from the toxic and look after the good ones once they’re in.

Exit the Radioactives

These are the people who have a negative effect on the culture and need to be moved on especially if they are not performing. In smaller organisations the tremors from a radioactive personality-type are intensely felt particularly if these people are not pulling their weight and passive aggressively slowing things down.

Read more: Ventureburn survey sheds light on SA’s tough, but pioneering startup industry

Exiting these individuals is a common challenge especially for smaller organisations who may not have access costly legal muscle. This is why probation periods are so critical and should be at least four to six months long to allow for fair assessment, feedback and if necessary; swift exiting.

Get the basics right

Small organisations may not have the bucks to pay fancy travel allowances, concierge services and 6 months maternity leave but should at least aim to pay fair, market-related salaries and cover the basics. A recent survey from Glassdoor found that more than half (57%) of people said benefits and perks are among their top considerations before accepting a job, and four in five workers say they would prefer new benefits over a pay raise. These are the top five benefits most valued by employees who participated in the survey.

Medical Aid: 40%
Paid time off: 37%
Performance bonus: 35%
Paid sick days: 32%
Retirement plan and/or pension: 31%

In conclusion it sounds like a cliché but the truth is that hiring good people and treating them fairly can play a hugely significant role in building a fiscally and psychologically healthy organisational culture during the initial growth stage of a business. It all depends on the extent to which the decision makers have the time and capacity to oversee these issues and give them the attention they deserve, which can be tough when operating at break-neck speed and getting product to market is the business priority.

Image by c.a.s.e.y



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Ventureburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.