How to build a team of A-list players
A tightly-scheduled onboarding process, internal training sessions and an open door policy are just some of the tools, CEO and co-founder of Channable, Rob van Nuenen utilizes to run a company that’s loved by its thousands of customers and its fast-growing team of over 100 people.
To make this happen, Van Nuenen intensively focuses on attracting A-list players. How? By taking careful steps in recruitment, onboarding and collaboration. “Growth like ours can only come from an amazing team.”
Van Nuenen shares insights from his experience on building a great team and why he continues to do so, even though he’s reached most of his professional goals. “We started out with the ‘unreachable’ goal of running Channable until we hit a €100 million valuation. But now we’re actually on track with our growth numbers, I cannot imagine feeling this excited about anything else than this team and the customers I get to work with every single day.”
Recruitment & Selection
Many of the most memorable moments of one’s life happen at their job. But what these moments are and how they align with what you need as a founder and CEO may vary over the lifecycle of your company. “In the early stage of your business, it is essential to find people, and take the time to do so, who value your company goals over their personal goals,” Van Nuenen shares. “You will find out if a potential hire has what it takes when they’re eager to learn. For example, when they come up with scenarios of how they would improve your service and actually test vigorously to find out if they were right or not.”
In all practicalities, it is Van Nuenen’s experience, this means hiring young enthusiasts. “Whatever background they have is not important. If you run into someone with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, a high level of energy and a can-do mentality, that person will be able to help you achieve your company goals.”
Over the years, reasons why people choose to work with you will change. “People in their twenties love the fact that we’re a fast-growing startup. Plus, having our own bar helps. People in their thirties on the other hand, value openness and the opportunity for personal development and career growth. Where as people nearing their forties and those over forty see us as an opportunity to obtain a management position.”
As an organisation, you will start to look more and more at what roles are needed to scale, especially when you grow across borders. “We start to notice that the required characteristics are more focused and the generalists we needed in the early days are slowly moving elsewhere. For example, now, every country we serve has two business developers, one marketeer, one account executive and one team member for customer service.”
Growing as quickly as Channable does, they expect to grow their headcount by at least 50% this year, requires a well-thought-out plan of entry for new hires. Where as Van Nuenen and his co-founders took on hiring by themselves in the early days, these days, all new employees go through a perfectly constructed six week onboarding program.
“It’s designed on a day-to-day basis:
> The first few days are all about the company. Who are we, what are our values, but also, all about the practicalities of working with us. Through this process, both the employee and our team will know if there’s a fit;
> then everyone, no matter what team you’ll be working with, will get a training in our tool. You need to know everything. This will teach us if there’s not just a company fit, but also a product fit;
> followed by a training in customer support and actually working in customer service for a week, for everyone. This helps everyone understand for whom the tool is developed and what their needs are;
> last but not least, depending on the team, you might get additional training. If needed, sales agents get trained in sales and developers are introduced to our development process earlier on.”
As founders your role in the hiring process changes. You need to be aware of where you’re most useful in the entire process. “We always meet new hires in their first days here. This way, they learn where we came from, why we started Channable and what direction we’re heading. Other than that, and maybe most importantly, the role of the founders in the onboarding process is to lead by example.”
Not only does scale require you to attract an increasing amount of specialists, as opposed to the generalists your company needs in its infant days, but of course, the actual number of people you need to manage increases significantly. No wonder, how employees collaborate gets more attention.
“A flat structure combined with a constant internal feedback loop,” Van Nuenen shares from experience, “creates a culture where experienced team members teach the new, but where the new are not afraid to share their opinion. Essential if you don’t want to spend your time micromanaging.”
“Part of creating such a culture is to intervene only when necessary and to openly communicate management decisions. Then let teams decide for themselves how they can support the company goals.”
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