Bill Bartee, venture capitalist speaking at Recruiters’ Hub last week offered his thoughts on what works and what does not for startups. Much of what he said can be applied to establishing sourcing functions:
1. No problem = No business
This simple equation is important when you’re busy writing up business cases for budget approvals and drafting business plans. Even after you have transitioned from conception to operation, I think it’s important to remind yourself of this simple fact. Always be cognisant of the value that you’re providing to your customer. You need to know why your sourcing function exists in the first place or else it will be a hard sell convincing anyone to retain it.
2. Only hire A+ people
This notion can be found countless of times in any book about starting a business or leadership. The key point is to hire people who are smarter than yourself so that your business or team can expand beyond what you can offer. On the flip side, you need to ensure that you have an open environment which fosters creativity and affords freedom and autonomy. There is nothing worse for a highly talented individual to be fox holed into a static job. They need room to grow and spread their wings. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will take up a management position, I know plenty of people who shy away from the responsibilities of a managerial role and prefer to work as a specialist. The thing that strikes me is that you don’t really know where they’ll end up, you only know they will be exceptional and succeed in what they do. That in itself is evidence that your team will grow beyond the vision you can offer.
3. Understand your customer in detail
Whether you are working as an outsourcer or as an internal function you are still providing a service to client or customer. I think that the best internally focused departments within any organisation, whether they be recruitment, HR, payroll, etc, are those who frame themselves as providing a service to a customer. That way, they tend to really want to understand who their customers are, build strong stakeholder relations and identify pain points in their workflow. Working as a sourcer both internally and as an external resource, I’ve noticed there will be certain people in the organisation you work with that really champions your services. They may be recruitment consultants, hiring managers, the executive team, or simply someone in HR. What I’ve found is that these people act as an enabler to the other parts of the business and help you to grow your business or sourcing function.
4. Be remarkable/Legendary service works
Everybody wants to do a great job. Everybody gives 100%. If everyone is providing a good service what makes you and your sourcing function so special? Be remarkable in everything you do so as to stand out from the crowd. This is especially true if you’re trying to establish a research function. You need supporters. People within the organisation need to know about you and they need to want to utilise your services in order for you to maintain your business case. It makes very little commercial sense to maintain a function within a business that is under utilised.
6. Fail fast and learn faster
Fail fast, learn faster then iterate. Just like any product development cycle you want to minimise the cost of failure and quickly learn from your mistakes. What works for one sourcing function in a business might not work for you. Failure is a necessity for progress, how else will you know what works and what doesn’t? Just make sure you maximise that opportunity to learn. For sourcing, this may be in regards to the breakdown of your sourcing team, they way you function, new technologies – CRM, ATS, platforms.
7. Manage meaningful metrics
This point is ever so pertinent to any sourcing function. We learnt about sourcing metrics at SOSU2011 and we also covered this topic at a SourceClub meeting last year. What is important to note is that what works for one sourcing team focusing on a particular industry or sector might not work for another working in a different industry. Similarly, you need to differentiate between the different types of services the sourcing team is providing. If your sourcing team is conducting a market map then time to fill and looking at the conversion rates from suspects to prospects to hires might not be the right measurements. Similarly, a quality based metric would only give you part of the picture of what are the appropriate channels for a talent attraction campaign. For a researcher or sourcer conducting search, this information is part and parcel of their sourcing strategy.
8. Be a leader –> Love what you do
Having a passion for what you do is really going to help you keep your head in the game and push through the low points when you’re building a startup, believe me. However, your passion alone can’t help your business or sourcing function thrive especially if you’re working in a team. Whether you’re working in a big or small team or closely with other parts of the business, what is important that you have the right “chemical fit” as Bill calls it. He gave the example of SEEK during their startup stage while they were still looking for investors. There were many reasons to avoid investing: strong competition backed by large corporations (MyCareer, Monster), the Executive team was prone to in-fighting as it was built around two brothers and a close friend they grew up with. However he cited the key reason why he decided to back them was that their culture and team dynamics were simply “amazing”. They adopted a “no excuses responsibility” mantra throughout the company and everyone was onboard.
9. Never quit
In true entrepreneurial spirit – the ‘never die’ attitude. Setting up sourcing function is easy. Setting up a good sourcing function is hard. There will be nay-sayers, obstacles, roadblocks, low points and at times doubt but if you persevere you can achieve what you set out to do!