Having founded Agent99 eight years ago, amongst my primary day-to-day operations as director of the company, a large part of my role has been to staff and grow the agency.
I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have to date without my team, as they have helped me to propel the agency forward and create an incredible working environment.
Over the years, I wish I had someone to mentor me on what to do, and what not to do when hiring new team members. None of us are perfect and I have made a few mistakes along the way. I have also learnt a few things, so rarely make the same mistake twice now. In light of this, here are my five critical team-building strategies for entrepreneurs:
Test real skills
Often entrepreneurs are quick to hire as once they need staff the situation is often desperate. Hiring staff who are right for the role is crucial both in terms of providing consistently excellent service to your clients and ensuring that the person fits culturally with the rest of the team.
This is one of the first lessons that I learnt, that we should test “real skills” as there is only so much that you can garner through a face-to-face interview.
Because of this, as part of the hiring process, I make all prospective staff members take an hour-long quiz that tests their basic public relations skills, and the speed in which they can deliver results real-time. Here, I am able to observe their proficiency. Often potential employees can impress in meetings, however, are unable to complete the required tasks. So simple tests like this one helps to give you a better understanding of them, and in turn, make sure that you hire the right person for the job.
A core philosophy here is to hire for potential talent, not entirely for the perfect experience on paper. Entrepreneurs are often desperate to hire the right staff member so go with their gut after the first interview. Experience, however, has taught me that this isn’t always the best strategy. One wise person taught me a valuable lesson, which I live by and that is “hire slowly, fire quickly”. And this leads nicely into…
It’s ok to say no
As much as you might be desperate to hire, always remember that it is OK to say no to potential hires. I once went against my better judgement and hired a staff member as we were desperate for help, he lasted less than a week.
In hindsight, I’m glad that he only lasted a week, as if he had stayed he would have caused detriment to the company’s reputation and name, which as a business, is all you have ultimately.
Finding the right staff member as opposed to a staff member is a large part of successful team-building.
Build the culture you want and share your vision
A big part of being an entrepreneur is having a vision for your company. This is why you have set out on your own, to be your own boss. In saying this, it is important that others believe your ethos and that staff buy into the culture you create. If they don’t believe in you and your company, how are they supposed to assist you to grow your business?
With these initial hires you are also creating your company’s culture, so ensure that you find the right people who will create a positive environment to work in. A team can only function with a healthy atmosphere of trust and respect, as well as fun. Therefore, make sure that you don’t make their job all about work and remember to implement various activities to ensure that your staff enjoy their work.
Know your weaknesses and have a diverse range of employees
As an entrepreneur it is easy to assume that you can do everything. Initially you had to wear multiple hats. However, once your business starts to take off it is important to hire staff who complement each other.
Having diverse staff with a range of knowledge is incredibly useful in business as it provides multiple opinions when problem-solving. Recently at Agent99 we hired a recent film school graduate. This, coupled with ex-journalists and an ex-radio producer, means the agency has staff with a varied skill set that clients can truly benefit from.
Invest in current staff – diversify their skills
Your staff is what is going to make your business. So nurture their professional development! Simple strategies such as investing time in training and praising them when they do a good job is important as it makes them feel valued. I like to have regular team outings to ensure that my staff realise how crucial they are to the success of Agent99 PR.
These strategies show you value your staff and you trust them to assist you in creating the company that you envisioned.
Sharon Zeev Poole is the founder of Agent99 Public Relations.