Do you know anyone who needs a job?

As season three of Shark Tank inches closer to a screen near you, it is worth reflecting on the ‘story’ of each Shark. I suggest that one of the reasons we were chosen was our ability to empathise greatly with those pitching, as we are all ‘self made’. All five of us distinctly remember the time before we had customers, before we were employers.

On the set of Shark Tank I found myself sitting next to Andrew Banks – the man who is considered a pioneer in the Australian recruitment industry and arguably the World’s ‘Best Recruiter’. Andrew co-founded of Morgan and Banks, eventually Hudson, and recounts his story from arriving in Australia as a ‘Ten Pound Pom’ with nothing to his name but a deep curiosity and wonder how he could ‘turn a dollar’. He said “many of my friends were small business owners – and the hardest thing for them was to find people to help them grow their businesses”. Things have not really changed.

I understand the challenge of finding quality people. When I started RedBalloon in the front room of my house I had no idea how to recruit, let alone engage and manage people. In fact, I found my first team member by simply asking friends “do you know anyone who needs a job?”. And when I needed to hire again, I said to my new employee “have you got any friends just like you?”. Before I knew it we were a team of seven, all friends of friends with no real process. I think I was the one doing most of the talking in the interviews..

Meanwhile back at Shark Tank, I asked Andrew what ‘one question’ works best when recruiting. He said that you must, even before speaking about the role itself, ask the person about their aspirations. What do they want for their lives? Recruitment is like ‘dating’: it is a two way street. You have to make sure there’s a fit on both sides.

As a start up and small business owner, I know that every person’s contribution is critical. Often, I couldn’t afford the person with ten years of experience. For many roles it was the values and cultural alignment I was seeking, rather than ‘expertise’. Given we were inventing an industry and the internet was a mere baby – we were all learning. I’d often recruit people a little ‘outside the box’; people straight out of school or college, or people looking for a career change. Some of the best customer experience executives we’ve had needed to be taught how to use every system – but they really loved people, being on the phone and responding to emails… the essentials!

Without budgets for massive salaries, let alone expensive recruiters in my small business, I had to grow people with me. It took determination, commitment and the development of an employee framework to assist people to flourish, but it was absolutely worth it. We had a distinct ‘all for one, and one for all’ camaraderie, like we were all on this journey together. One thing I am certain of is that every one of the people I employed who were a bit ‘outside the square’ were tremendously loyal, grateful and willing to pitch in. They enjoyed working in a smaller business environment due to the high level of transparency. I learned that people love being noticed, encouraged and nurtured.

The folks at jobactive asked me to review their platform and offering, in line with my experience as a small business employer. They asked “what do you think?”, “would it help?” and “how do we let business owners know that this is available to them?”. I guess that’s the point isn’t it… how often are we a ‘no’ before we are a ‘yes’?

As human beings, we often define ourselves by the roles we play in life; work and what we do for a living is one very significant role. Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about the movie ‘The Intern’ where Robert De Niro plays a more ‘mature’ intern. The story is about how much wisdom he brings to the leader of the business and to the team. So, when I hear business owners lament at the cost of recruitment or say “I just can’t find anyone”, I say “what about giving something new a try and look outside the box?”. I will let you know how I go with jobactive… perhaps your very own Robert De Niro is on the website simply waiting for you to post the right role 🙂

I look forward to seeing you in the community and hearing your feedback on how you fared with jobactive.

Image:Courtesy of Network Ten

Grow & Scale Your Business by Naomi Simson

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