I'll go ahead and state the obvious: We are immersed in an ever-advancing digital age that requires constant innovation, and it is extremely difficult to attract, hire and retain the technical talent needed to support that constant innovation — even for stabilized companies. For startups or those needing to scale quickly, the challenge can seem almost impossible at times.
However, it can be done — and done well — if done intentionally. Quickly strengthening a technology team is something that I have tackled firsthand as CEO of Fortress. In the last year, we grew our team from eight members to 43. How did we successfully scale in today's extremely competitive market?
Start with Your Executive Team
As you grow, you must transfer responsibilities and trust to an executive team. Doing so can be very scary (especially for us Type A's), but focusing on your "why" and "how" during this stage can help you drive the decisions on "who," especially at the top.
Why are you passionate about what you do? Why is your company in business? Does this executive have the same passion and want to help your "why" succeed?
Why do you need someone in this role? How is this role going to help you? Does this person fulfill these needs both professionally and personally?
How does your team interact, engage and create? How would this person impact your company's culture, and how your team defines success?
In building our team, we defined our mission by answering our "why": to propel the real estate industry forward by partnering with our customers and providing impactful solutions. Then we defined our "how": through entrepreneurial, driven, focused, innovative (mindset), compassionate, vocal, fun (culture), technically skilled in modern technology (skill set) and awesome (culture) team members. We then used our "how" to help us determine our focus in defining our executive "who": mindset, culture fit and skill set.
Promote From Within Whenever Possible
Onboarding new team members can be costly, time-consuming and risky. Conversely, promoting current team members who are already familiar with the company's "why," "how" and "what" can be advantageous, and showcasing promotions can build trust and rapport with the entire team. However, this can be tricky because your team members may not be "ready" for that next step — but you won't really know until you try. For us, this means offering promotions with extreme transparency: "I don't know if you are ready for this new role or if I'm capable of coaching you into it. However, if you are motivated to try and are open to making new mistakes with me, then let's try it. If it doesn't work, then we will work together to quickly pivot."
Sometimes, the early promotions work out. Sometimes, they don't. However, we all evolve and transition together. The objective is to be transparent on the front end and compassionate on the back end, creating positive — even if not ideal — experiences for everyone.
Quickly Hire the Right "whos," and (even more) Quickly Remove the Wrong "whos."
With technical team members, you are constrained by certain skill-set requirements. Past that, you need to focus on the person and how they fit into your team. Things that can help when scaling quickly.
Interview, interview, interview — the same person. For us, four interviews (including at least one group interview) before an offer is standard. This allows everyone (me/team/hiring exec/other execs/candidate) an opportunity for clarity and transparency before an offer — especially for the candidate.
Hire quickly. If you need to scale, you need to make your hiring process a speed machine and ask everyone on the team to prioritize hiring. You need to trust your gut, your team's gut and your candidate's gut.
Fire quickly. If you give yourself permission (preferably, the requirement) to fire those who are not a good fit extremely quickly (but always with compassion), then you can hire quickly with less reservation. This is incredibly important; the only true way to reward your overachievers is by not burdening them with underachievers/bad fits.
If you ask anyone at our company why they are there, everyone's answers will include the words "team" or "people." This tells us two things.
Our team is really that, not a buzzword.
It's more about "who" than "what" or "why."
You can do anything with the right team, but the greatest thing is that the right team with the right executive leadership is easy to scale. You should be confident that when the right candidate meets your executives and team, they will leave that meeting ready to do anything to join your team. That's when scaling truly becomes easy.