8 things I’ve learnt about hiring since starting Trefiel
It has been my absolute privilege to grow Trefiel to a point where we were in a position to bring other people on board to help us build it further. Along the way, I’ve learnt a lot about what it takes to actually manage and motivate a team as well as understanding what makes a good hire and who is best for what roles.
Sales, then brand
Everyone sees big brands like Frank and Lush and makes the same mistake that I did — that good design and high quality images make sales. The reality is so far from the truth. I’ve been on both spectrums — hiring for sales (great results, less brand building) and hiring for brand (no results, but beautiful branding). The tricky part about this is finding that happy equilibrium where you’re making enough money to support the branding team members. In my experience, sales always has to come first and shouldn’t effect your brand so long as you have a strong foundation on what you want the brand to be and hire sales and branding team members alternatively. I think this is particularly important for the many small ecommerce businesses out there that want to create big aren’t sure where to hire first. Sales, then brand.
The marketing team has to be an exact lookalike of your customer
But more self-aware and understanding of their traits. What makes a good marketer is understanding yourself enough to realise what makes you tick, why you consume content (and who you consume) as well as understanding why brands resonate with you. To build out your marketing team, your team has to intimately know the customer because they are the customer.
To find the right people, you have to know who your customer is. Ever since we started building our Snapchat, I’ve had a deeply intimate relationship with my customers and audience so much so that I truly understand who they are. I’ve even taken on a lot of those characteristics to mirror my audience so that they feel comfortable with me and can trust me. You can do this without using your face and your voice on a video platform like Snapchat, IG Stories or YouTube — surveys and getting on the phone are great for this. I’ve always thought customer research is so much more fun on a social platform because you’re able to show your audience so much more than you can on an hour phone call.
The marketing team has such a heavy influence on the content you create that they can’t help but inject their personality into it. Be careful and protect your brand.
Hiring for remote can make in-person interesting
Michael and I have the unique situation of being able to hire anyone around the world because we’ve built the business to run remotely. When you hire remote, you miss the interactions that happen in the every day and make up the culture of the company. Without these interactions, you can misjudge a person or not immediately realise where there are differences in culture and personality.
We’ve had some really interesting experiences in person with some of our remote staff that have made us realise how in-depth the interviewing process needs to be to truly understand someone, what their needs are and where they want to be. Half the joy of being an employer is empowering someone beyond their role within your company and in order to do that, you need to understand them deeply.
High expectations are great, but only when you’re willing to be in the trenches too
Off-handing tasks with big briefs and lack of communication (and then an inability to contact you because of travel or being offline), led to some of our team feeling incompetent and with no control of their part of the business. Being a creative requires that sense of control and design and to truly empower people, you need to give direction and be available to handle all of the questions and problems that come up. You cannot step away from a project and expect your staff to know what to do in your stead, the expectation is unfair.
People are effort
More than you ever think they will be. Not only do you need to be in the trenches working with your team, you need to provide direction, love them, support them, accommodate them and motivate them. When the weight of responsibility for the business falls on your shoulder, this can feel like just one more straw on top of the haystack but it’s arguably the most important. This ties into my previous work — you cannot delagate work to employees and think that you can step away from the leader role to allow them to take creative charge. Often times, they don’t have the context, knowledge and data that you do that is driving the reasoning for the project and plays a critical part in the executional strategy.
Scheduling in fortnightly meetings with staff to help them grow their personal brand and weekly meetings to help team members grow inside their role is critical to ensuring your team feel confident in you as a leader, and treasured as an employee. This can be really hard work, especially when you’re calling the shots on so many other parts of the business.
Attitude is everything
If someone has deep seated self-esteem problems, it just won’t work. No amount of constructive feedback, careful wording and praise will get them to the point where they can manage themselves sufficiently. Hire people that love and respect themselves.
Don’t try to fit people into a space they don’t fit into
You can train people to grow inside their role, but you can’t make a square peg fit into a round hole. Putting a disorganised person into a management role is a bad idea just like putting a visually creative person into a strategic role is a bad idea. The biggest lesson for me in this is realising where my own strengths lie and where I truly suck at business. I’m really grateful to have a partner that is so strong in the areas I’m so weak in and building a team is just as much about recognising your own weaknesses as it is scaling.
Where possible, hire full-time
Contractors are incredible because they bring a wealth of skill to the table and are flexible with availability and demand, but if you really want to build a brand, it has to be full-time. There’s just not enough hours in the day (or money in the bank) to hire contractors at such an early stage. Better to hire up-coming superstars and help them build than it is to hire the superstar who you can’t afford.
Every team member will make a million mistakes, but every founder will make ten million
Give people the time and space to make those mistakes, learn and build your company while building themselves and their skills. You are not above making mistakes — in fact, you make a lot more than your team do. It HURTS to lose money from a team members mistakes, but it hurts even more when you don’t deploy patience and empathy towards your team. Patience and empathy over everything, for your team and yourself.