How to Hire the Greatest Start-Up Team Ever - Gym+Coffee

How to Hire the Greatest Start-Up Team Ever

Posted by Diarmuid McSweeney on

The Gym+Coffee Team has grown!

2018 has been a whopper year for everyone involved in the Gym+Coffee community. Together we’ve climbed mountains (literally), stretched ourselves (literally and figuratively) and done our absolute best to Make Life Richer in any way we possibly could.

This year, we were fortunate enough to experience some really exciting growth and our team increased from 3 people just under 2 years ago to 7 full-time team members in our office and another 10 in our Dublin retail locations.

This kind of hiring was a very new experience for us and presented a really interesting challenge. We wanted to get this right. And we knew we were novices in the field of Human Resources.

Gym+Coffee Co-Founders at Dundrum Store

So, before we hired our new full-time crew, we spent a good deal of time thinking about what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to go about achieving it. Hiring people is tricky under any circumstances but for a young, growing startup, the stakes can be extremely high and missteps can have a deep and sometimes lasting impact.

We want a team that understands what we’re building, believes in what we want to achieve and gets our culture & attitude. In order to get the right people in the right roles, we had to delve further into our existing situation and make some big decisions around where we saw ourselves in 1, 5, 10 years time. An intellectual and skill stocktake of the three of us had to be done.

As is almost always the case with small businesses, our roles as founders weren’t heavily defined. Initially, all of us were involved in everything from big-ticket items like securing investors and managing cash-flow & supply chain through to fulfilling orders, designing products, taking care of customer service and managing our social media. We all did a bit of everything.

The three of us fell naturally into our lanes of operations, marketing and product design/supply chain management - no problems there. But as we settled into each channel, the need for retail, customer service, event and marketing assistance became increasingly apparent. Our community was growing and we needed to keep up.

But how do you ensure you’re getting the right people for your company? Having the right skill set is key certainly, but when you work together in a room with no dividers and a lot of collaboration, having the talent alone doesn’t cut it. Personality matters. Working style matters. Flexibility and partnership matter. A happily thriving team dynamic was the difference between success and failure for us.

Gym+Coffee Team at SwimRise Christmas Party 2018

Some of the Gym+Coffee team at our SwimRise Christmas Party!

So. We did our homework. Our process was thorough and took a little longer than we might have initially anticipated but we have a team now that is helping bring our business to greater heights. And most importantly, we have a team that is a part of the community we are building.

We’ve jotted down a few of our key processes and takeaways from this exercise. We hope they might resonate with you and your experience, or that they might assist you if you’re about to embark on some hiring of your own!

What do we have and what do we need?

One of our very first starting points was taking a big look inwards and assessing what our strengths are and where the gaps were showing. We have, at a high level, the skills required to run our business, market & advertise our community, and design, manufacture & deliver our product. What we were missing were the right minds to communicate our message (writing, digital marketing, graphic design), people to merchandise our product (retail dream team), and a person who knew how to clearly and kindly manage relationships with our community, customers and collaborators. We identified the roles we needed to fill at Gym+Coffee HQ: a customer experience & community guru, a creative content writer, a digital marketing star and a clever & quirky graphic designer. In addition, and with the opening of our first physical retail location, we were looking for a crack team of retail legends. Now to define their responsibilities...

Define the role(s) and facilitate success

Set everyone up for success. I can’t express that loud enough. Set. Everyone. Up. For. Success. You want this to work out because it’s good for your business. Your staff wants this to work out because it’s good for their growth, development, ego, bank account, network, the business… the list goes on. It’s good management. It’s good practice. It’s just good.

In order to ensure success, you both need to know what is required. Definition and subsequent communication of role(s) are key to ensuring you have happy staff who want to stick around and a company that goes from strength to strength because your team believes in you and your message.

Explain what’s required. Set tasks. Set objectives. Follow up on those objectives. You will all reap the rewards.

Spend time getting to know your candidates and let them get to know you

You’re going to be spending at least 40 hours a week with them. Every week. Hopefully for a good few years. Are you going to all get along?!?!
We went through a three-step process with our candidates. First, a phone conversation. Nothing major, just 20-30 minutes of conversation to get a feel for the personality on the other end of the phone. Next, we shortlisted and then asked the candidates who made it to round two, to complete a project for us. This gave us an appreciation of their real-world capabilities, gave them a chance to show off their skills and demonstrate how well they know the Gym+Coffee brand.
In all honesty, we loved this part of the process. It gave us a good sense of how our candidates tackled a project and provided more insight into their working style. It was also an opportunity to inject a bit more of their personality into the interview process.
The final step was a face-to-face interview with the people whose projects impressed us the most, and who really seemed to ‘get’ what we are about. During this portion of the interview process, candidates were able to talk through the thinking behind their project, answer any questions we had and ask a few of their own as well.
It was a long process for all involved but for us, it meant we had a tangible confidence in our decision-making and were satisfied that we were offering roles to the right people.

Don’t hire if it’s not right

One of the roles we were (are!) looking to fill is that of an in-house graphic designer. We did our research, advertised, interviewed, and ultimately came up empty-handed. Not to say that the candidates we interviewed weren’t highly capable and extremely talented - they were - but they weren’t the right fit for us. So, we decided to take a step back.
Our philosophy has been to augment the existing skills we have in-house with people who bring something new, complement our talents and bring an energy to our community that fits the Gym+Coffee lifestyle.

We have consciously decided that it is better for us to power through on existing resources rather than add people to our team who are unlikely to succeed here.

Create a proper onboarding process

Once you have your candidates and they’ve accepted your offer, it’s on you (the company) to make sure your new hires have a good comprehension of what’s expected of them, what your culture is (though by this stage they should have a good understanding of that anyway!), what they can expect of you, and an overall understanding of the company and its direction as a whole.

Given our size, we hadn’t yet established processes or structures for onboarding. We also probably took for granted how well we know our business’s goals and strategies because we had been living and breathing them for nearly 2 years. We recognised the need to spend more time with these amazing new hires running through the nitty-gritty, than a quick coffee catch-up would allow.

One of the benefits of being a small enterprise is that you have more opportunity to involve staff in all aspects and at all levels. During week one of our new hires’ start, each company founder went through an overview of their segment of the business. We laid all our cards on the table in an effort to set the tone for transparency, honesty, ambition, and enthusiasm for our work. We believe in this. We want our staff to too.

The newbies were given a tour of our retail stores, a view to our strategic and long-term goals, our approach to marketing, what customer service at Gym+Coffee looks like - everything including, obviously, where the kitchen, toilets and best places for sausage rolls are.

Execute the onboarding process!

Seems obvious but it’s no good spending time on something that never gets looked at or utilised. Now that you've spent time creating an onboarding process for new hires, make sure you put it into practice!

Don’t underestimate its importance: Do the thing you say you’re going to do. It sets the tone. Your employees understand that you hold yourself accountable and it instils accountability in them too. Say you’re going to do it. Then do it.

Team Gym+Coffee Silly Christmas Photo
Four Weeks In

Within a few short months, we have doubled the size of our office, tripled the size of our company and we can’t believe the impact we’re seeing already. Two things we hire for are enthusiasm and self-starters - our new team has hit the ground running taking on really huge projects that are growing the business in all directions. The atmosphere in the office has evolved to a more collaborative, more productive, focused and fun environment.

We are proud of our process and we’ll use it again and again - with new learnings added as they come up. We’ve already learned a lot and continue to do so. And though we certainly aren’t experts, we feel we’ve made some great decisions in our hiring and will continue to build upon our foundations as we lay them.

All in all, 2018 has been a sometimes scary but ever-exciting year for us. We achieved A LOT. We also drank a lot of coffee. Some of us went to the gym. Some of us drank a bit more coffee ☕ All of us are looking fondly back at 2018 and looking very much forward to 2019.

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