In this installment of our Kiwi Founder Stories, we sat down with Kirsti Grant, CEO & Founder of Populate; a SaaS company helping organisations plan hiring, and manage employees. During the hour, we discussed a lot about hiring. We’ve summarised a few key points on building great hiring processes, fostering a strong culture, and founders making their first hires.
Building Great Hiring Processes
Working at Vend and running Populate has given Grant plenty of experience building hiring processes. A key piece is “making sure every applicant is acknowledged. Those people will be your brand advocates and can give you referrals. Give them a good experience right off the bat by acknowledging their application. Then even if you have to decline their application their first exchange with you is not a negative one.”
Another key part of your hiring process is your compensation plan. Grant discussed this in length, stressing the importance of clearly understanding your compensation strategy. She also discussed ESOP schemes, advising that, “if you’re choosing an ESOP or options component to a package, it’s really important people understand what it means. If you have no intention of there being a liquidity event for a really long time, you might need to tell people that.” Grant goes on to explain that “in the US, a couple of companies actually show [in their job offer form] what potential exit scenarios might look like, and what the employee’s share ownership could mean for them, which is quite cool.”
Building Strong Culture
Culture is critical to the success of any organisation. The keys to good culture are ensuring everyone understands the story, the vision for what the company is trying to achieve, and it’s values.
It’s also fundamentally important that you scale the culture over time. “Your approach to culture just has to evolve. Everyone has to be very open to change. The things you do to foster culture at 10 employees vs 100 employees are fundamentally different.” It’s important you recognise that and make sure you’re constantly evolving. Part of this evolution is to adapt to ways of fostering culture that are all inclusive. Otherwise you run the risk of isolating employees, and squashing diversity. “Just like technical debt, there is diversity debt. The longer you leave it, the harder it’s going to get to fix it."
Founders First Hires
Making the first few hires as a founder can be hugely daunting. You’ve build and managed everything to date. Letting go of control can be difficult, let alone finding the right person. Grant, as former VP Talent for Vend and now as a founder & CEO is uniquely positioned to share really valuable insights for founders making their first hires.
“People that hint towards needing a lot of structure or a lot of process is always a little bit of a worry. The reality is that they're going to need to be building those processes and structure themselves,” Grant says. “If I have an inkling of a potential problem I might throw a couple of curly things in - a last minute change or a surprise in the interview - just to see how they react. Do they take it all in their stride, or is it a big problem?” Grant believes curiosity, resilience, and a drive to learn are the most important qualities to look for in your first hires.
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