The Art of Company Building

The Art of Company Building

Guest writer Alex Kraft takes us through his experiences as both an employee and an entrepreneur to highlight the art of company building.

I recognize I’m not the first to have this thought, but I’ll share my education and experience in company building. Prior to Heave, I worked for an established company. I was also younger in my career, so I was learning in every possible aspect. There’s plenty of material available that talks about the art of company building and everyone regurgitates the same axioms around “you need to hire the best people.” 

In fact, every company tells the world they have the best people. Yet we all know this isn’t true. One of the cooler aspects of my entrepreneurial journey is the access I’ve had to top tier advisors/investors and people who’ve worked for some of the top companies in the world. 

They’ve opened my eyes to what company building really means. I’ve always been more focused on the day-to-day culture in an organization. Setting up collaboration, accountability, and honest feedback loops. But I never knew how significant the pre-hiring process and an employees’ first day were to success. 

Company building starts with recruiting. Recruiting isn’t just targeting candidates and having conversations. Recruiting starts with defining what your company is looking for in general and by role. For example, we’ve defined what we look for in a software engineer, in a territory manager, in customer success, and what we screen for in marketing. Define what background you’d like to see for the role that is a predictor for success. Put on paper what traits and behaviors match your company’s culture for each job role. For example, we screen for five different areas. There’s a company document that has questions to ask a software engineer candidate to screen for grit or ‘no drama’ (Grit and ‘No drama’ are two of our five areas—we DO NOT want people that bring drama!). Same for a territory manager. It’s amazing to see how when you spend the time to document these things, the hiring experience is significantly smoother and cohesive. Everything starts to make sense. 

Next, it’s important to set a process. How many total interviews? Who performs the interviews? Are different people involved and at what stage? What do candidates have to prove to move forward in each? Do you have a grading system? I’ve learned how much this matters. Having a process helps greatly to stack rank candidates. With these things in place, you come to learn that hiring decisions aren’t made subjectively as much and everyone involved is much more aligned. This is the way you can lessen the chances of making a mistake and increasing your odds of success. 

Congratulations, you’ve run the process and the candidate you wanted accepted the job. 

The next phase of company building is just as important. The overused term is ‘onboarding.’ Here’s the concept: a new hire’s first day(s) are critical. We bring everyone into our corporate location for a 3+ day class (depending on role). We share our company founding story and our journey. We outline our mission, vision, and our goals. They get the opportunity to meet their teammates and understand how all the pieces fit together. Everyone is aligned on where we’re going and how we’re going to get there as a team. You want the new additions to leave thinking joining the company was the best decision they ever made. First impressions are everything and taking the time and spending the money to do ‘onboarding’ right pays dividends down the road. 

I see the effect it has and how motivated and engaged our team members are when they get settled back where they work every day. People appreciate the thought and the time you put into them before pushing them out in the wild, so to speak. 

Hiring is difficult. You’ll never bat 100%. But in my earlier days, I worked for a company that was solely dependent on who walked in the door to apply for a job. And I wondered how we couldn’t attract top talent. How you set everything up from recruiting to a new hire’s first week sets the tone for a memorable experience. And here’s the best part: those employees turn out to become your best recruiters for the future. 

Great people want to work with other great people, for great companies.

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