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Wahanda CEO on the talent acquisition headache for ambitious entrepreneurs

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Given that ego can be one of the main driving forces behind most entrepreneurs’ ambitions, it can be a hard pill to swallow admitting that there are gaps in your knowledge. I am a great believer in hiring people who know more than you do. When running a business, everyone has his or her strengths, whether that’s organisational, financial, marketing, selling or creative development. Few people would claim to be experts in all fields, and the sooner you can come to that realisation the better!

Whilst it’s all well and good waxing lyrical about a stellar team, finding talent is actually pretty tough. According to a survey by KMPG, recruiting talent is one of the top three concerns for businesses across the globe and although you can sometimes luck out, more often than not you need to position your company as an attractive employer for talented individuals. Having a clear focus and a conscience are tantamount, and your reputation is partly shaped by how you treat your existing employees. From my experience, employees want to feel trusted, part of one big team (non-hierarchical) and autonomous within the work place.

For example, allow customer service staff to make judgment calls and issue credit notes without having to revert back to line managers beforehand. When employees are incentivised and have a bigger say in how and when they work, employee satisfaction and engagement grow exponentially, and lead to better customer service. And treating people as equal sets you apart as an attractive prospect for new recruits.

Once you’ve hired the right talent, you need to look for not only the right skills, but also the right cultural fit. As the captain of the ship you must be protective of the culture you want to foster within the ranks. This makes the difference between an employee getting tasks done with the minimum effort, and one who actively contributes to the brighter future of the company. For example, the Competency Iceberg Model shows that some competencies such as knowledge and skill are visible above the line, but other behavioural components sit below the line (such as attitude traits, self-image and organisational fit) and are equally important for a well-rounded employee.

If you have already hired the right people and your workplace is a united and collaborative environment, the tricky part kicks in – as the business owner you must relinquish control and let them get on with it. If you have the right people with the right experience in place, they will take ownership of helping you carve out your company success story.

And if you’re looking to expand and scale? As a company grows, the needs of the business change and develop, so hiring talent for different stages of the business lifecycle is key. You need to calculate the integration of both new and old skills as you scale and there may be some talented individuals who unfortunately don’t fit the vision for the company’s future. In this instance, you may need to reconsider keeping certain team members on the payroll – it can be a tough call to make, but necessary.

As you grow and your needs change, you should always be scouting for talent – even if you only have very specific openings. A smart entrepreneur will always be on the lookout to connect with standout individuals, as their skills may be invaluable somewhere down the line. You should however beware of the “shock and awe CV” – someone who works for a company on your radar or has been incredibly successful.

You can’t always tell if their “success” is down to their own work or if they rode on the coat tails of the company name, so watch out. Someone who has been with a company through the hard times and has dealt with adversity might be a better fit for your business journey.

Whether starting out or embarking on the next phase of growth, having the right team in place is imperative. By creating a nourishing working atmosphere and a skilled team who share the same vision, you foster an attractive environment and take care of your culture as you grow. The final piece of the puzzle is letting go – putting your ego aside, admitting you need help and letting the right people get on with it.

Lopo Champalimaud is CEO and co-founder of Wahanda.

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