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“Hire Earlier” 5 Startup Tips with Caroline Stokes, Founder of FORWARD

“I wish someone had told me to hire earlier. I did everything by myself at the beginning, and as you’d expect, I dropped a lot of balls and wasn’t the best person to be around during the honeymoon period of starting a new business. With the clarity of hindsight, I wish I had hired a support team earlier.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Stokes, founder of FORWARD + The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter started a headhunting company for innovation leaders that also coaches the talent for 100 days when they’re in their new role. Caroline is also a certified executive coach helping leaders and talent evolve whilst also focusing on recruiters to adapt in the AI age to evolve their emotional intelligence.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

During the 1990’s I realized it isn’t necessarily about the product that makes the product great, it’s the people behind it that creates the product and the harmony and solution oriented mindset that’s needed to create a product that really stands out. I had this a-ha when launching the first PlayStation, and the journey in human capital development evolved from that point.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company

Some people collect coins, watches or rare stamps. As a serial collector of career experiences, the more I do, the more I want to do. When I announced to my youngest son that I was going to start The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter podcast and training platform on top my current business FORWARD, where my company conducts search and coaching for innovation leaders, he said ‘Mom, this means I’m never going to see you if you do that, too’. We laughed and explained to him that when you love something so much, you’ve just got to do it. He understands my ‘collection’ obsession and insists he will run the business when I’m ‘really old’.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Everything we work on goes beyond the transactional. Every communication through to after service. For our headhunting arm — FORWARD — we coach peple in the first 100 days. No other company includes that as part of the service. With The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter the sharing of information comes first. This is a labor of love and mission for the recruitment industry to have its reputation evolved in the AI, deep learning and quantum computing revolution. Everything we do is about the human excelling in a digital world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

If it wasn’t for my husbands encouragement, I woud not be where I am. He always told me I would be great at having my own coaching and headhunting company, my own podcast. He saw things in me I hadn’t yet considered. We all need someone that can see something great in us. His belief in me has been and continues to be unwaivering. I admit, this is a rare and wonderful thing.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

From the outset I became a certified executive coach where prinicples, ethics and guidelines are at the highest level. Once you’ve learned this as a way of life, you bring that attitude with you everywhere, whomever you meet. When strangers allow, I provide them with the opportunity to find a way forward from talking to a taxi driver to having a conversation with a CEO. On the greater scale, I help innovation leaders find and retain the talent they only dreamed of, whilst also helping recruiters adapt and grow so they can be the best recruiter for their company by developing their emotional intelligence. If I could have a sustainable house and electric vehicle and a no-waste system, I’d then feel like I was making only positive impact to the world — but I’m not quite there yet.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) I wish someone had told me how hard it would be to find ‘my tribe’. It’s easy to explain your mission and for people to say ‘that’s so unique’, ‘it’s wonderful’ — but would they jump in and want to get involved? Not really. People have their own sense of direction and purpose to fulfil and it’s not always so easy encouraging people to join when you’re creating a new model when it hadn’t been proven. Today the models I’ve created with innovation leaders have been proven with C-level hires and recruiters needing to evolve and now I want to share it with the world. This is a different situation to be in and people like to get on board with a safe and proven concept. People often prefer the familiar rather than the new and better way. I didn’t realize this at the time, but it’s clear the human condition is strong with any new idea that can buck anyone’s norm.

2) I wish someone had told me ‘everything will be alright’ OK, my husband did — but there are times you want somone else that’s close to you to look at you with unwavering eyes saying ‘everything will be alright. You can hire a coach, but the coach won’t put your arm around your shoulders and say ‘everything will be alright’ — because they don’t know. The bottom line is, no-one knows ‘it will be alright’. The number of businesses that go bankrupt in their first year is painfully high and it’s up to the founder to adjust, adapt and find solutions with every passing challenge.

3) I wish someone had told me to hire earlier. I did everything by myself at the beginning, and as you’d expect, I dropped a lot of balls and wasn’t the best person to be around during the honeymoon period of starting a new business. With the clarity of hindsight, I wish I had hired a support team earlier.

4) I wish somone had told me they would like to go into business with me to ensure there was additional funds so I could have hired sooner and created a tech solution to accompany the headhunting and coaching suite of services offered. That’s definitely one that got away…

5) I wish someone had told me these new companies were going to be a different game to the companies I built In the 90’s and early 2000’s and that I’d finally found ‘the one’ that I was going to treat with unlimited passion. I was excited about the direction I was taking, but these two new companies were completely different in the sense that we were working with organizations that wanted to have a different service. With unlimited passion comes extreme highs and extreme lows. Start-up and growth, much like a relationship, isn’t a straight line from the bottom of the mountain to the top.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

This may be cliché, but I want to have lunch with Elon Musk for the simple reason that he has a fast-paced learn-it-all, big vision and problem solving mindset. His creativity and business dare-deviling makes him the most exciting innovator right now. I’m sure I could think of Dr’s, founders, cancer researchers, health, food and energy innovators, education distruptors and Googlers that are also changing the world, but Elon is the one I’d want a fast-paced innovation and leadership lunch/workshop with.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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