Hiring The Best Talent | Bridget Harris, YouCanBook.me | BoS USA 2017

Bridget Harris, Co-Founder & CEO, YouCanBook.me

“Who you hire will make the single biggest difference to your business” – that’s the premise Bridget Harris opens her talk from BoS2017 with. As founder of a SaaS company, Bridget knows this first hand, and wants to help you make sure you hire the right people for your business.

In this talk, Bridget lays out a framework for making sure you hire the right people. Create a company that you want to work for, and aim to hire people who want similar outcomes as you – then document it, describe it, defend it, talk about it, share it, and make decisions based on it.

Video, Slides, & Transcript below







Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run

We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.

Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.


Bridget Harris: Hi, everybody! My name is Bridget Harris, this is me on Twitter. I run a company called YouCanBook.me. We do online scheduling, I have met quite a few of you yesterday and today has been really great. Saying hi to everybody and Keith is also here in the audience and he and I run this company. We’re based in the UK but we have a lot of people in the US that use our tools so we feel very close to America. And my talk is who you hire will make the single biggest difference to your business. And that’s obviously an argument that I will make in the next 30 minutes and I’m interested to know whether you guys had a different opinion or if anything I say doesn’t quite fit. This is essentially what I think having done this for quite a few years, is the conclusion I have come to.

Let’s start from the beginning. Who we hope we will hire when we put out the job advert and wait for the responses to come in? this is who we want, a range of talented people, the rock stars and people that will make us feel like we have an incredible company to boast about. In software companies and tech companies we know we’re always under a cloud of suspicion and this is who everyone assumes we’re going to hire. And this is just some kind of a cliché that we can’t get away from and in a way there’s a part of us that’s secretly afraid this is who we might hire. How did we end up with these people? The reality for most of us is this is who we actually hire, yay! Because really, as Nathalie said yesterday, we’re running regular businesses and do our best to try and find good people that do good things. So how do you get the best people to work for you? And I think this is the sort of each conference speaker will probably focus on one of this and it’s roughly around culture, processes, product and leadership. And anybody can say one of those things will make the critical difference. Again, sort of itemize it a bit further. I think that your company is made up of people who spend money on building and selling products and services. I think the material point here is people who spend money – it’s not about vision or an exciting solution or passion. It comes down to the success of your business, to people who spend money. Now, money is a big thing, we’re a bootstrapped company and this was for us a massive question. Do we raise money? How much did we spend? How much can we run for before we fall over? There’s always this fear, maybe if we got to a million pounds, that will spend it. Look, in case there was any doubt about this, this is 10 of the most funded start-ups to fail in 2017, including the juicer. It’s awful to admit this and watch some of these things go down. But they did sadly employ 1000s of people so they spent their money on hiring people and they are doing it and together they burn through 1.7 billion dollars. That is, my friends, 1.7 billion dollars. That is a lot of money! And so those people were told that their job was submission or something – it was about really accessible squeezed fruit. But were they? What were they doing basically? If someone gave us 1.7 billion dollars. The wrong people will spend your money on the wrong things. So that’s why – yeah and let’s talk about the wrong things. When I was preparing for this, one of my colleagues said you want to make a list with the wrong things? You could say all sorts of things, but it comes down to this is you, this is your money. Now, the wrong things it could be marketing or consultants or hiring too many people or anything. Really, the wrong things is those that bear no relation to creating profit in your company. If you just spent 10000 and what you get out at the end is you don’t have it in your account, you shouldn’t be spending it. You can make an argument – that’s as simple as that. Otherwise you end up like that cat.

Now, before he passed, Steve Jobs did mandate every tech conference to quote him at least once a day. Jason got the straw yesterday, I was the one picked by Mark today. So Steve, he said we wanted people that were insanely great at what they did – the neatest thing that happens is when you get a core group of 10 great people. It becomes self-policing as to who they let into that group. Very attractive notion and in that interview Jason showed a picture yesterday, this is the group in the 70s building the Macintosh and they’re thrilled they got to work with each other. Steve said I consider the most important job for someone like myself, is recruiting and we can all agree with him. What could possibly go wrong? Yeah, hands up who feels like Steve or who’s done that. You know you have done it at some point and everybody does it at some point and realizes they’ve ended up with someone that wasn’t quite right. In Steve, he was the CEO of Apple who fired Steve thinking that was a solution. We know how that turned out.

So this is my argument. Who you hire will make the single biggest difference to your business. In 2010, Youcanbookme, myself and Keith we were lucky because we didn’t have money or people. This is us around the same time we were learning how to do rollerblading. Since 2010, I spent 7 years trying to work out how to run my business, I have never done rollerblading since that day. You can see the hand of the person realizing that it was a mistake to even suggest the notion to me that I should get on these things. But with the business we’ve had no choice, like rollerblading, if you fall over you say I will never do it again. In business you say I have to get up and figure it out, and keep it going, we have customers. This is our team and we’re very small. There’s 10 of us and we hired 7 people. We’re a miniature. I’ve met loads of you guys where you’re working in companies of 100s of people but maybe this is like building a team if you’re not on a size similar to me and Keith. But actually this isn’t the story or size of youcanbookme. This is the number of people I’ve had contact with or we’ve talked to or hoped to hire and tried to get involved – the question in my mind was how come these guys made it through? So all the reasons why hiring goes wrong, why it’s stressful and emotionally exhausting and you find your week was hijacked because it has something to do with one of these topics. It’s not about product or vision but about this stuff. I’m interested in that, why did the people now work for us? Why are we the last men standing in this process? And I don’t know, why people do that. I see some people don’t get the memo. You sat there and you totally think you know and then somebody does that and you’re like why did you just do that? Why? So we’ve had too many of these situations where I find myself thinking why did you do that? So my answer, this is it – create a confidence in your culture that will attract and retain the best for your company. Believe in your culture.

So in the talk, I will cover those questions and I will say about why I think culture is important. Jason was talking about it yesterday and he said you need to know who you are. I’m also going to talk about you can systemize culture, this is the good news for all of you in the room. And also hiring. And I think it’s the best we can do, it’s what regular businesses can do – figure something out the best they can and try to point themselves in the right direction. Know thyself, this is ancient Greek and I’m sure many of you recognize this phrase and it was about the ancient Greek philosophy on enlightenment, the other thing was in excess, two very powerful sentiments and very simply expressed. That’s why we have a problem often, we don’t know if it’s us or them when you’re having the conversation with someone who done something bad. When they leave, you end up in this engagement. We had too many of these conversations. We realized when we were having them we said this is what we want to do and what we try to achieve with the company. We’d have our team at the time and their reaction bore no relation to what I was saying to them and I realized we had a problem. We were the problem, we built a company around what we wanted but it didn’t correspond to the people that worked for us and this is because by being some of the problem people, you know how it feels like to be in an organization you don’t have synergy with. As a result, you go and build your own company, but you have to remember because you don’t agree with someone in your company that you hired, it doesn’t make them the bad person, it means you set out badly. And by knowing we were the problem ourselves, it helps guide you to something which will give you better alignment.

So a development of that, I want to create a company that I want to work for and then you want to hire people who want similar outcomes as you. That is not the same as people like me. Because if I hired people like me, then I don’t get any more than more of me. We want people who share my vision, what Keith wants to do or we’re trying to achieve, that’s really important. But this is what I’ve learned. Once you figure that out, you document it, describe it, defend it, talk about it, share it, hire on the basis of it, fire on the lack of it, judge people on it and you make decisions based on it. You give yourself an operating system essentially. So this is how we’ve documented. We’ve documented our culture talking about who we are and our policies and procedures and now quite recently we’re starting to document our appraisals. This is our culture document – that’s small writing and I don’t expect you to be reading it all, there’s a google doc and I can paste the link later. But this is who we are and when someone starts working for you, I send them an email saying I’m Bridget, these are the things important to us, read this document because it’s important. Commitment to excellence, curiosity and optimism, find and share the solution, confidence in transparency, simple is beautiful, tolerance and respect. So we have 6 slides and values. We say they should be core principles if we’re 10 or 1000 people long and we want people to champion them. These are the questions that those values are going to give us an operating system to help us understand. If you don’t have a culture deck or that list of principles and they have 10 principles, we’ve got 6. There is – if you don’t have something like that, start answering these questions and you will see how you can put something together. Talking to your team is the right thing to do – this is actually how we work, how we fire or what’s good or bad. How do you define the performent is really important. Is it competitive or collaborative or points based? What you’re trying to ask your employees to do for you? How do you socialize? As a team, how are things defined in terms of your social interaction? Do you know what everybody thinks, if I asked you to tell me about every single employee on your team and who they are and what they think, would you be able to tell me? Do they feel safe? When you end up getting culture wrong and giving the impression that something is right because you have for example, always be hustling, is that a value that’s giving people permission to do something that doesn’t make people feel safe? Also to flip it – if anybody came to a member of your company and say what are they standing for? Can they articulate the values of the company? Do you want to work here? Yay! Do you want to work here? This is the reaction many people have had to that first work environment. Do you know there’s the institute of corporate directors? They have a meeting, we should take them on! They’re there! Those people basically are in this building. So here we are, and actually for youcanbookme, we’re a remote company so this is us. We’re saying you want to work for us, this is your work environment, you have to survive because there’s no – there are parachutes probably. So when they work, you got this. Again, all starts to feel a bit boring, doesn’t it? So we tend to ignore that when we think about hiring, we think about performance – we need more things to happen. Better productivity, happier people. And then we forget about the stuff in the middle, we don’t know who we hire to. We think if we spend money, we will get performance out in the end. The middle matters, because you see people falling over themselves at any one of those stages and you tell them and struggling thinking we need to figure out more roles. I think you need to describe every stage, if you want for your company what does each one of these things look like? How does it work and document it? I suppose with people and money it’s not an unknown thing, there’s buckets of activity where you can measure what’s going on so there’s all this stuff going on here to do with people, this is HR, and all of this stuff to do with financing. I know it’s a boring slide so let’s put this little guy on! You can’t ignore these things, this is what happens to you whether you like it or not.

So when we started, we were obliged to do this, you have to have policies and procedures and they have to sign it off and I didn’t take it seriously at the beginning and I was like whatever [inaudible] accountants have them and lawyers. And frankly, what your policies and procedures of any company will do is set out the rule of engagement how much we will pay you, what we expect you to do and how we will fire you. You follow those rules when you’re dealing with your staff. So I put it into a Wiki and I put the boring stuff at the bottom and put some summary pages up so everyone – they have to read through this and sign it to say they’ve read it. What you wear in a tech company is ridiculous. My summary wasn’t serious on that one. Then we do annual appraisals where we refer to our values in our yearly catch-up on what’s going well, what are you trying to achieve? Again, in the first couple years, I thought this is what boring HR internal performance managers do and the last thing I have to do and then I realized like Steve Jobs that your central concern in your company for its success is to understand your human resource, what your people will do. Now, every year we ask people to list what they believe they had done consistent with our values and if you don’t remember them from the first time let’s go through them: commitment through excellence, curiosity in optimism, finding and sharing the solution, confidence in transparency, simple is beautiful, tolerance and respect. They write them all down, we have a big discussion. So that’s fine, but that’s annual so now recently we decided we need to catch up every 3 months because we hadn’t before, things were sliding and we got to the situation where the people did stuff off topic and we didn’t understand it. So on our quarterly 1-1s we ask them to fill out something like this. We ask them to deliver results, be proactive and take responsibility and then on our third measure we ask them to demonstrate youcanbookme values. Then we get them to score it, it’s quite mean. Nobody wants to work for me now! We make them score themselves. So they have to do it from 1-5 on each of these sections and then the manager has to score them and it’s a potential 15/15 and we’re looking at a high end number. The other thing I did was this time, I am now exploring and interested – I want to develop this into basically P2P feedback and appraisal so I want to get the 360 degree support you can get where the whole team can collaborate in appraising each other based on this kind of scoring or these measures. Because where I see things go wrong in our team has nothing to do with me, they always do what I ask them to do. It’s about the way they work with their team members and that’s what I’m interested in.

So when I was preparing for these slides, I asked a couple of our team members what they thought and one of them said I have never worked somewhere before where it’s so clear what the values of the company are. In my past jobs, I had seen things that made me feel uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel confident enough to speak up – now I would. And I thought really gratified to hear that, because this is a guy that worked in all sorts of big company and he’s seen behaviours people didn’t like or people that made comments that were off and didn’t know what to do. That’s how most of us feel when you see someone like that and you think I wouldn’t have said that, but we don’t have the social cues to take action. Ironically in my company, he is ready for it, I am ready to intervene anytime I see anybody say or do anything inappropriate or not according to our values, because I’ve made it so clear./ another said this is the most open company I’ve ever worked for. This is not accidental, because me and Keith happen to be nice people, we have a nice company. We worked and thought about it and iterate on it and we document it. So you have your doc, your policy and procedures. Congratulations! You may start to hire. As soon as you know who you are, you know who you try to achieve and what happens when you get the wrong person, you can start hiring for the right person. Hiring the wrong person is the most expensive thing that can happen to your company so you work hard to avoid that. The biggest obstacle you have in hiring the best talent – this is the big secret, heard it here first, folks, it’s you! You are the biggest obstacle. Why are you that? Because you want that hire, you want it so bad because your team is screaming out for it and everyone is strung out because you need to get the new product rollout on time and your clients are going up the walls and you know you need to hire people and you want it so badly that you will trick yourself and the people you’re talking to will be right for your company. This is another reason, you guys are decision makers, you like making decision so it’s logical. You set up a recruitment process where you put an advert and you do this stuff and you end up with 5 people and you’ve already told yourself that you want to hire that person. You don’t want someone to say the last 2 months were a complete waste of time. We’re not hiring him so you were geared to make a decision and to hire that person so I developed some slides to help you think about that, about how you should treat that momentum. Took me a long time to do this by the way. Thank you, it did! I’m not a PP person normally. I was quite pleased. I gave up a movie on the plane to do that for you people today. So how do you do that? I’ve got a new way of doing it, I think that these – I know it sounds ridiculous cause we had our culture doc for like 3 years, but this year I’ve realized no, I actually want the operating manual to help me understand who I should hire. That’s what we try to hire for, what we’re performance reviewing for, we need to hire and fire based on our state of values. It’s clear to people what we’re going for [background chatter]. In summary, what we tried to do a lot with what we do hire is that we start to try and remove biased from our process. When we shortlist candidates, we create anonymized questionnaire and let’s say we’re hiring for an engineer. I will do the process, create the spreadsheet, I will ask the technical questions and have 4 answers and then I will present it to Keith and say which answer do you like best? They will know nothing about that person – it’s powerful and you can do it in any situation because your number one problem is your biased, your desire to make it work is so powerful you have to basically put processes in to stop you. So having been able to split your interviewers so that you have a pair of fresh eyes on the candidate so you know the biased is built up – also your biased to want to hire is being allowed for. So you can avoid that momentum. So you find someone and are excited, you done all this and heard Bridget’s talk – and then this is what you need to think. You are Neo, all those people want you to hire that person, because you’ve got the momentum and want you to do it and you have to stand there and say no. be strong and say no, I won’t hire now this person, I will look for reasons why this person’s wrong for my company because I won’t be like Steve and make a mistake is what you have to say to yourself.

So references, this is my new big thing. I realized that people ask me for references and I won’t say what I think about that person. I won’t get involved, that’s tricky and I will keep it one sick day turned up, that’s really all you people say. As a result, we end up all of us are hiring different people from each other and we’re sending this weird and pointless information about employees and you know nothing about them, except what they told us. This summer we were doing some hiring and I asked for some references and it’s an important point because you say can you give me references and they’re funny about it, that’s a no hire there. They can’t tell you a few people to say something. He gave me 7 emails, the 3 previous companies he worked for, and I was like whoa! This is a gold mine, because I can ask these people anonymously what they think of this person. So having got the emails, I will do this from now on, not their current work or something formal, but just to say I want an email address from LinkedIn or some form of contact from your work colleague and previous line manager. Then you look at your values and the words that are associated with them and you create a questionnaire based on these values and you send it to all the people you have the email addresses for. Very friendly, nothing will be tracked, just want to know what your impression is from this person you worked for. When you get the results, you can quantify it, if you make it a quantities survey and look for discrepancies. Worked beautifully!

All my values, I created 10 questions so the things I’m trying to come out of these values end up in how someone works cause that’s what you want to know. How is this person going to work with you? I would do it differently last time, I made some mistakes, but you take your values and create your questions and the result is this. You get collaborating 9 out of 10, interest in other people 9 out of 10. The mistake I did was I did some numerical ones that was the opposite so that was confusing so you need to avoid [inaudible] but if you get a discrepancy and 6 people say really not so interested in other people, you’re not asking them to submit a negative thing about that person, but judge them on a scale where it could be that’s a strength, being interested in other people. Who knows what role you’re asking them to do? Then you can build a picture of what other people think of this person because that’s what you will think of them when they worked for you. I was talking to someone earlier and for us it’s important because we’re remote. As a remote company, these are the things that start to become very painful if they’re not perfect in a remote team.

Now, this is my final topic. Not a fit. So in the little drop down when you’re trying to code why you won’t hire somebody, it comes up not a fit. We all like saying it and maybe you checked your culture and compared it and you don’t think that’s a fit. I have a problem with that because we are all tribal. You have to figure out what tribe you’re in because you’re 100% in one tribe in one way or another. Sometimes tribes are great, they have huge strengths, you can get great solidarity and team productivity when everyone feels they’re in the right team. Human beings form groups cause they’re stronger. This is what we want to do. The problem with tribes is tribalism and that’s where the behaviour and attitudes stem from strong loyalty to their own tribe or social group turns into exclusion and we all talk about inclusions, but people are excluded. We are not recognizing our ability to naturally exclude people because we’re felling tribal about something. This is how it starts, so gently and normally you don’t even know. You say you know any good developers to your team? This is the response, and the other response. Suddenly your team is full of green developers. I was just asking people, I got good references and I was keen there would be a fit. Actually, no. that is you being tribal, you’re inviting your tribe to invite other people to the tribe. So figure out what tribe you’re in, get out of it! You have to realize that you are made up of your own strong social preferences and in order to build a robust team, you have to go in places where you don’t feel so comfortable. It’s not just a nice thing, it’s also documented and academically researched and proven that diverse teams are stronger. They produce more creativity and more weird ideas are coming out of those teams and they last longer. We know they’re the best story in Hollywood because all these people that join together when they didn’t like each other particularly, those guys, these guys. The best! Those guys very diverse and there’s the ultimate fellowship of diverse people that came together with a common goal. You can’t get better than that. That’s my evidence basically, LOTR. You might be thinking ok, it’s great but I will code my way out of it. There’s a good argument for that, we all had built products out of fabulous software that we know how to operate and streamline. It sounds great and it’s like saying maybe we should all try to hire rock star developers. Would you like to know what they look like? That’s what you will get. You might get one rock star, even two rock stars, then basically you’re dealing with that, you haven’t opened yourself up. You could go to all these people instead. This came up from the Linux foundation. Go to their website and they are all there, all the people. If you contact them, you’re done. There’s those people too. So go to those people and then you’re done. There’s those people too, they’re all there. But they’re all other tribes, some of them aren’t gonna make you feel comfortable but how would you feel going into their tribe versus them coming into your tribe? The problem is we have to be more confident as human beings to empathise with other tribes we don’t have immediate familiarity with. People and money determine what you do. That’s why I said at the beginning they spend your money, that’s all that happens in these businesses. So when you have a mission and you think what the company is about and you tell everyone what your mission is, I think you’re missing something here, because everybody can write this stuff, it took me 5 minutes. Mission statements are bullshit, that’s what I think. Nobody cares what you say – people care about what you do. People and money determine what you do. People and money determine your culture. Culture determines who you hire. So my final slide, I am appropriating a famous management theory by Peter that wasn’t him – which is culture eats strategy for breakfast. I’m arguing that culture eats hiring for breakfast and if you start with your culture, knowing who you are, you learn how that has to work through your processes and procedures. You will be in the best possible shape you can be in to hire the best people for your company. Thank you! How long do you want to stare at him for? Do you remember when he was the most exciting thing on the internet? There was nothing apart from animated Spider-Man.

Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run

We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.

Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.


Mark Littlewood: Thank you! That was brilliant! Questions!

Audience Member: Hi! Thank you for that! I wonder what your opinion is on probationary periods or specifically hiring – I have one role – 3 people to do a 6-week project, maybe even the same on.

Bridget Harris: AB test them? I think that’s fair enough, I do have – the three month thing and we do it. We do it partly in different arrangements and in America when we hire, we give them a 3 month contract which is fire at will and you’re done contract and then very excitingly we put them on an European contract where we have the conditions and they don’t get any of that until they’ve gone till the 3 month thing. I had to do it twice where they didn’t make past those 3 months and we have to make it very clear and we’ve not hired some people where we made an offer to – in a way you’d think they didn’t have enough faith in themselves to make it through. So I do believe in that, and then in the UK and Europe, we either do contracts or we will do – it’s the same thing but we have to do a contract with a probationary period, but we’re terminating the contract without notice [background chatter].

Mark Littlewood: Yeah.

Audience Member: Thanks for the talk! I think it’s very interesting how we tried to explore the references, but don’t you think there’s a biased for good answers?

Bridget Harris: In the questionnaire? Yeah, this was the first time I did it and I did it quite quickly and I could see immediately what the issues were. You have to think about it – for example, this was a Spanish developer that I was trying to hire and the question I asked was how judgmental do you think this person is? In Spanish he was scoring 9 or 10 and I was thinking he doesn’t come across as judgmental. I asked my Spanish developers and they said it means making good decisions. No, it doesn’t mean that. You have to be super careful and I realized I think you have to be able to ask questions that essentially were worded differently but also may come to the same point and if they had the same score they could test against – I love it and you can have 10 questions on the form – but I think I would probably upgrade. They did a great job, I would think next time I would do more of that but I wouldn’t have it where 1 or 10 is the best answer. And another one is we said we like to hack things fast. One of our values is clean machine, we aren’t looking for people who will hack away and shove in solutions cause it works today, but people who like clean systems. 5 might be the best medium, someone that will do it when it’s necessary but isn’t naturally a hacker. So you want to balance – I think next time I will do it, I don’t know. I have to think about it. Is it better that you’re going for 5s of 9s? you look for discrepancies so the numbers don’t matter – you ended up with the team colleagues and people indicating that this guy is great with team members but shocking with managers. It’s an early stage thing and I’m interested is anybody doing anything like this? David.

Audience Member: We did this across businesses and we have a formalized process but I try to do it to understand the company values and strategy so they answered what they’ve doing. We do annual reviews, self-reviews and then 360 reviews to make sure that using the same forms and when the interview comes up, I have the same thing. But it’s important – having the same questions asked over a period of time matters more than making it hard to answer the questions. You have to make it work.

Bridget Harris: You don’t try to ask some trick questions, but fair questions and if you’re in the middle of the candid and are like I want to hire this person! Then you get the references back on values that are super important, you can go back to them and be like tell me about these scenarios. These are our values and this would be my concerns. You can delve deeper and give – we were the problem once so when I was building this questionnaire and you thought – you’re finding a match, not an objective right or wrong. It’s subjective, an alignments of a  company and hire that will work for you. You want to give them a chance to understand what your concern is. In the 3 month probation period, if they show those values, you can say now you’re doing this and it’s a problem.

Audience Member: We use it to reduce the workload of them and the conversation is started already.

Bridget Harris: Absolutely! I would be the first to admit that when I started youcanbookme, I had about the same opinion about management systems as I had about rollerblading. I just didn’t plan to do it because I hated them in the companies I worked for previously as a line manager or someone doing it to me. It was after the brutal truth of the human condition where you would be entitled subtext of my talk is that people will do all sorts of unexpected things and even though it’s boring you have a framework and you can start in that framework and you understand what they’re interested in and making sure they do the right things and if they aren’t happy you can take action. Our team are responsive to this, they realize it’s in their best interest that they make it work.

Mark Littlewood: You, sir!

Audience Member: I’ve got a question. You did an impressive job building from the values or the policies and review system for the company. I wonder if you heard this question before, don’t you think it’s a bit excessive for a 10people company? Following up on that, say we have a start-up. At what point in time do we need to think about these things rather than just trying to build something? Because you can start doing all these things and now 2 months later you got it all figured out and now you burned through the cash. Where do you find the balance?

Bridget Harris: You’re right! We’re tiny and it’s ridiculous! This feels over bureaucratic for an office of 10 but the reason we do it like this is because of bitter experience. When you’re small you try to hire people. If you aren’t able to explain what your company is about, then you may to get those better people because really good people would come in and understand what it is you want them to do. We just hoped people would know how they could help us and they would join our company and we would just, like some great big happy tumbleweed, run along and be productive. Then what happened is people would fall over all over the place and we would have contractual problems and performance problems and people were fired and didn’t come to work ever again and started doing unacceptable things in the office. We were like please, get a grip! Now I have to have a dialogue and my attitude always when I realized I’m facing a problem they have to solve is that we like systemizing a thing which is repeatable. My instinct is I’m sure there’s successful 10 people companies that don’t have as much process as we do, but that’s the way I like to do it. It happened that people did something unacceptable and I said look, this is what we’ve said, this is why it’s a problem, this is the action I will take or indeed I ended up realizing that I’m behaving in a way that’s contrary to my values and we need someone working for us that wasn’t consistent. In fact, they need a much stronger harbour for us as a small company because otherwise, and here’s the problem, and this is why my whole slide is about tribalism, is that we are exposed to arbitrary, we shift in the wind of trying to find a solution, someone comes along thinking they’re great, we hire them and you end up responding to any stimulants that come along and if you haven’t got a harbour that says what we are, next thing we’re Uber and they have no idea what happened. They were intent on building the best fleet of driverless cars and limousine cars and pool cars and apps and they didn’t know what’s happening to the culture of our company. We are growing, we do want to hire more people and every time someone applied for a job that I want to give the job to, I am asking them to forgive us for not being IBM or Apple or Slack or all of the most exciting tech companies in the world. Coming to work for us is special and I believe in the fact that if you worked for us it’s an amazing job. I can tell you what that looks like. Someone can say yeah, that presses all my buttons, we have alignments and there’s value in those policies and procedures working in a small level and it’s scalable because of course, you do have a system where and then hire more people in it and you don’t have to rethink the process every time.

Mark Littlewood: Yes.

Audience Member: Great talk! Thank you! You hit on this a bit, one thing this talk focuses a lot about is you being picky, making sure you’re bringing in the right people. On the flipside getting the best talent to be interested in you and wanting to work for you. We found the people we want, the best talent are working and they’re happy at their companies. What are your thoughts on attracting the best people to be interested in your company never mind allowing them in and then poaching?

Bridget Harris: It feels depressing cause the best people have the best jobs so they won’t think of me and that’s tough. The first thing is you can’t think like that, you have to have corporate self-confidence. We have other things to offer! We’re the best people! So that’s the first thing. The second thing is none of this is accidental so everything we did around the branding and our team page when we do hire, it’s all intentional. Some of the best people that work for us found us, they were looking for us and I was out there advertising for roles so they knew we were interested in them and they caught us. So you have to be in the game and kind of be available and say yay. The other point about it is the talent pool is not just rock stars and it’s a disservice to them about – it’s the developers, the CTOs, the engineers who build the product, they can feel like what do you mean we’re not valued anymore because we’re being set aside for wanting to throw our hat into many rings? I’m not saying that, but you can look at the organizations who are building their own tribes, and are motivated by different things and I want to get in there, go to the conferences, meet them and sponsor them, make sure my ads will be posted on the adverts and make it clear to them we’re hiring. We’re not offering – if you work for us, you won’t get a team of 25 people or share options or a fancy office or some sort of great campus. If you want that, work for Google! You will work for something different – I know it works cause there are people who work for us that love it and they are players. Once you have a customer, you can get another one. Feel confident you can go out there as long as you know what you’re offering. You should be able to describe why you want people to work for you, you don’t want them to hire rock stars, just say these are our roles, this is the talent that’s available and this is the opportunity for the right person to make it their own and that’s what we’re offering. If you build it, they will come. I think.

Mark Littlewood: You’re around all day.

Bridget Harris: I am. I’m doing a workshop tomorrow with Peldi. Not that we’re feeling competitive.

Mark Littlewood: Yes, you are. Good thing about the workshop is we have a different room for every single person participating. Bridget Harris, thank you!

Bridget Harris: Thank you!

Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run

We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.

Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.