Building the core of a business: attracting talent

Ronnie Altit from year-old IT services business Insentra recounts his experience trying to build a team. His number one tip? Use your network – online and real-world – to find talent.

As anyone who will have started a business knows that there are enormous hurdles to jump before the doors even open.

Once the initial market analysis, planning, cash flow predictions, business plans, go to market strategies and more have been established, possibly the largest challenge of all presents itself: how do I attract key talent to join my business?

Often the issue is not finding the staff.

Let’s face it. When you choose to start a business, you generally do so because you have found a gap in an industry that you know a lot about – that’s what I did.

On this basis, one can argue that your network should provide you the greatest source of candidates and, failing that, standard recruiting options are available.

Traditional recruitment by outsourcing to an agency and advertising in publications are available as are more viral methods such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

I leveraged each one of these, particularly my network.

Once I found candidates, I was presented with the challenge of making our opportunity compelling enough for them to take the risk.

The questions perspective employees ask themselves are not very different to those that I as a new business leader asked myself before starting out, remembering that prospective employees are also taking risks, often ones they have less control over than I do!

The key lay in realising this fact and ensuring that I had the answers that were solid, believable and backed up by facts that could be verified.

I found that the importance of personal track record was paramount.

Almost all Australian industries are small enough that everyone knows everyone.

Leveraging my network not only to find staff but to connect them with people we know in common has proved to be invaluable in attracting key talent to join.

Linkedin is a great tool to work out who knows whom. Put them in touch and then hope that they hear positive things!

I found it critical to be open and honest with candidates about the current state of play and the future opportunities – the goods, the bads and the uglys – calling out the elephant in the room.

I took the approach of “why wouldn’t I share that information” rather than “why should I”.

Better that I make them aware of things rather than them finding out through the industry grapevine and possibly misinterpreting what they hear.

Good people attract other good people.

I have learnt that regardless of the business model, its potential and my own ability to instil my passion in others, candidates are heavily swayed by the people they are going to be working with.

Accordingly, leveraging my internal network and getting staff involved in the recruitment process has been paramount.

Candidates expect the MD to be passionate and to be “drinking the coolade” yet when they hear the same from existing employees they receive a greater sense of comfort that the talk will be walked.

It has been 12 months of being in a services business where our people are indeed critical.

We are only as good as the last engagement we deliver.

Fortunately, we have successfully built a team of passionate individuals all of whom treat the business like it is their own.

Having done so, how do I build an environment that will serve to keep staff motivated, challenged and keen to succeed?

Ronnie Altit is Managing Director of Insentra, a company that aims to the a provider-of-choice for high quality technology services.

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