Essential Guide to Startup Recruitment

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The following is a guest post by Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency. They are focused on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth.

Follow Innovate UK on Twitter: @innovateuk.

As a startup or a small/medium-sized enterprise (SME), recruitment can become the bane of your life. It’s not easy, it certainly isn’t cheap and it takes that precious commodity we call time. If you get it wrong, it can really bite you. If you get it right, it can be the difference between success and failure. Thankfully, there’s a little help on hand. Innovate UK’s essential guide to startup recruitment will give you all the assistance you need.

Be Honest About Affordability

“Growth is not just about profit; bigger budgets allow us to use skilled freelancers, increasing the quality of our output” – Graeme McGowan, Creative Partner at Jamhot.

Can you actually afford to take someone on? It’s a huge commitment, be sure your finances are where they should be. This is not always the best option for startups. If you need certain skills, consider using freelancers. More and more startups/SMEs are turning to freelancers. They can offer your business numerous benefits:

  • They allow you to tap into experience and expertise
  • You don’t have to put an additional person on the payroll
  • You can scale their involvement up or down to meet demand

Hire the Skills You Need

“Make key hires that can fill skill gaps and complement existing staff to help you reach the next level” – Zac Williams, Founder and Director of GradTouch.

When your business first expands, it’s tempting to hire people quickly. Do your best to resist this approach. Be sure to stop and consider where you need new talent. Explore where the strengths and weaknesses lie in your team. Are there any gaps which could be filled? Most startups are made in the image of their founder, can you grow and add fresh skills to the team?

Explore All Recruitment Channels

“Utilising specialist websites for your industry can give quicker access to appropriate skills” – Gary Cassey, MD of Cass Productions.

Now it’s time to find the ideal candidate. The approach you take will have an impact on who you attract (and how much you’ll pay). Recruitment agencies are great for managing the process, though they are often expensive for startups.

Job boards are an ideal option though be selective about which ones you use. The larger job boards are best suited to major corporations and may not be cost-effective. Consider looking towards the smaller, niche sites in your sector. These are far cheaper and will get your vacancy seen by relevant applicants.

Don’t neglect to utilise your LinkedIn network. Your ideal candidate could only be a connection away. Social media channels are another great way of getting your vacancies out there.

Scrutinise Your Applicants

“99% of being successful is about having the right attitude. Those people can learn new skills” – James Vizor, CEO or RULE Recruitment.

Before you bring anyone in, you need to decide what you’re looking for. Not just skills but personal traits too. These traits are less likely to change as your employee grows within your company. It can have a huge effect on the general morale of your team. If you’re stuck on what’s important to you, consider what other key players look for. For example, Sir Richard Branson looks for three major characteristics from all applicants:

  • People skills
  • Risk-taking and grit
  • Optimism

What message are you sending your applicants? Employer branding is hugely important in recruitment. This refers to the message you send to your applicant during the hiring process. It should be an accurate and attractive vision of working life at your company. How you communicate company culture will affect the type of applicants you see.

If you’re interested in finding more essential business advice like this, subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel.

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Essential Tips for Defining Your USP

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If you’re entering into business, you’re going to need a USP. Without one, you’re not likely to get far. A unique selling point is what separates you from the rest of the market and what makes users choose you over the competition. It sounds simple but how do you actually harness and develop the key point that makes you stand out. Innovate UK have put together a list of four essential tips to help aid the definition and development of your USP.

Understand Your Target Audience

Targeting a specific niche audience is key to the success of your brand. A highly focussed understanding of the buying attitudes, views and beliefs of your demographic is needed to truly appreciate your USP. Once you’ve grasped this, you’ll be able to articulate why they should choose you over the competition. This will also help when you begin marketing your brand.

Solve a Problem

When you enter into business, you should present an idea which solves a real world problem. The only exception to this is if your business is solely offering entertainment. It’s also important to ensure that the problem you discuss is something genuine. A lot of time and money can be spent on a resolution for a fabricated problem. Market research is a great way of gauging public reaction to your concept.

Demonstrate Unique Benefits

To develop a USP, you must first look at the benefits of your products or service. Search deeper and note which of these benefits are tailored directly to your niche audience. From this find the reasons why your customers would choose your product over the competition. This should leave you with one or more sparkling USPs. Now it’s time to push these benefits to the forefront of your marketing campaigns.

Get Paying Customers

There’s nothing quite like achieving your first few paying customers. Don’t overlook this. Get your brand out there and push your product/service where possible. The more early adopters you find, the better your chance of success. Paying customers are a clear validation of your concept. If you can establish a demand, your idea becomes far more appealing to potential investors.

Want to see more advice and tips like this? Subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel here.

Additionally, follow @InnovateUK on Twitter here.

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Innovate UK’s Essential Tips for Business Networking

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The following is a guest post by Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency. They are focused on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth.

Follow Innovate UK on Twitter: @innovateuk.

How to be a Business Networking Pro

Business networking can be an intimidating, forced and uncomfortable experience. Despite this, some people seem to take to it like a duck to water. The truth is, networking events can be invaluable. Many business success stories can be traced back to two partners meeting whilst networking. If you want to be successful in business, then you’ve got to give these events all you’ve got. Innovate UK has put together few helpful tips that’ll help you network like a pro. We’ve included a few below.

Pick the Right Event

“You have to know who has the same vision to try to align with them” – Joyeeta Das, CEO Gyana Limited.

Every networking event you attend is an investment of your time and effort. Don’t waste it by going to one that isn’t appropriate to you. Research an event before you confirm your attendance. What do you want to get out of it?

  • New partner?
  • Investor?
  • Supplier?
  • New clients?
  • Customers?
  • Mentor?

Tailor your approach to suit your proposed outcomes. This step is all about giving you the best chance of achieving your goals, don’t overlook the importance of it.

Make Connections Online

So walking up to a stranger and talking about business isn’t your idea of fun. Everyone’s braver behind a keyboard. A great way of dispelling those initial nerves and cutting past the small-talk is by building online connections with attendees before the event. Survey the attendees online and pick a few that you want to get talking to. There’s often a pre-event buzz on social media, be vocal. It’ll make you more approachable when the event rolls around. Don’t forget, you’re not the only one who doesn’t enjoy talking to strangers.

Take Advantage of Opportunities at the Event

“Preparation for networking events is crucial to ensure you maximize your time and opportunities” – Andrew Kent, Senior Innovation Adviser at Enterprise Europe Network.

Don’t get ahead of yourself at the event. You’re not there to sell yourself, you’re there to network. Listen first and talk about yourself only when it’s relevant. Having said this, you never know who you might meet. It’s important to always have an elevator pitch up your sleeve ready for when you may need it. Remain visible online throughout the event by tweeting, using the designated hashtags.

Follow Up with Your Contacts

It’s especially important to follow up immediately after the event. If you were given any actionable points by your connections, be sure to do these as soon as you can. Call, email and connect with people you met on social media. Writing a blog is a great way to stay on the radar of influencers. Once everything’s calmed down, evaluate your attendance. Was it worth it? Learn from the event and begin planning your next one.


If you’re interested in more videos like this, subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel.

Alternatively, you can follow @InnovateUK on Twitter.

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A Simple Guide to Startup Success

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The following is a guest post by Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency. They are focused on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth.

Follow Innovate UK on Twitter: @innovateuk.

An entrepreneur needs a number of specific qualities to succeed, this is the same for any business plan too. There are numerous relatively simple points that need to be followed by a startup to ensure they have the best chance for success. Follow this four step guide and your company will be less likely to become one of the 50% of all startups that fails in the first five years of operation.

Step 1 – Scrutinize Your Idea

You have a business idea which is looking really promising, it was deemed a breakthrough by your parents and a really exciting prospect by your friends. Think this is enough? Think again. You cannot rely on your friends or family being objective about your business plan. You need to scrutinize it thoroughly and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it satisfy a need or solve a problem?
  • Is it disruptive?
  • Can you make money from it?
  • Can you identify at least one USP?

Only once you’ve answered these questions thoroughly and confidently can you begin to consider your business plan as having some genuine potential.


Step 2 – Have You Done Your Research?

What do you actually know about the industry that your company will enter? You can’t simply answer this question effectively with only the knowledge of a consumer. You need to know exactly who your demographic and niche market is and then you need to know whether they will actually give you money for what you offer. Is the sector in growth or decline? What are your realistic price points? What is your understanding of your direct competition? Is there any indirect competition that could affect you? If you do not know the answers to these questions, then you do not know how to approach your potential consumers effectively.


Step 3 – Build Your Team

A company that is just starting up will be massively affected by the team that is working for them. You need to surround yourself with people that will plan and deliver your strategy. Do you need co-founders to shoulder the work or can you rely on a team of employees? Don’t forget that your team needs to be paid, even if your company isn’t making profit!


Step 4 – Get Your Finances in Check

A lack of money is the most common cause of failure for startups. Make sure you have a realistic plan for longevity that gets the numbers right. It’s worth factoring in a cushion of money to take care of any hidden surprises further down the line. You need to consider how much money you have initially and where this will get you, then think about when you would require investment or to start earning revenue. Never forget to factor in production and staffing costs as well as a realistic outlook on how much money you’ll be earning. Ultimately, you shouldn’t get carried away and think of turnover and profit being the same thing.

If you want to see more helpful videos like this, subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel here.

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