Solopreneur to CEO, Hiring and Enrolling the Right Team | Curate Well Co.

Solopreneur to CEO, Hiring and Enrolling the Right Team

September 2, 2021

I left my career in HR, Recruiting and People Operations because my managers kept ghosting me. And so I knew that as I grew my business and hired a team, I wanted to prioritize creating an internal company culture as much as an external one.

It’s super common in the online-driven business space to outsource, but it’s far less common to bring things in house. But, you know us — we’re paving a path of new age entrepreneurship. We’ve hired employees (vs. contractors) since we started hiring, and we’ve learned quite a bit along the way.

Growing our team, creating internal interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes, and building out our team’s benefits has been almost like a side-hustle for me as Curate Well Co. has grown, and surprisingly, it feels so different as a business owner than it did as an HR department leader. I can’t wait to share a few of my takeaways with you!

 

What we look for 

When growing my team, I look for a few things:

  1. People who can fulfill the current needs of the company, and who are excited and willing to evolve with us, and also have a diverse set of experiences and perspectives that can support the needs of the CWco. of 5 years from now.
  2. Employees who aren’t afraid to claim their leadership, take ownership of their ideas, contributions, and job responsibilities. We call this the Figure It Out Factor. Resourcefulness, willing to try new ideas, and a certain degree of independence are required to thrive at Curate Well Co.
  3. Those who share our core values and are genuinely bought into the vision of Curate Well Co. — what we are and what we can become.

 

Setting Company-Wide Operating Principles

The ethos behind our operating principles, an idea we loved from the book Little Black Stretchy Pants, is that we’re open to making mistakes, but we don’t like to make the same mistake twice. So, when we learn a lesson or discover something critical, we create an operating principle for our team to work from in the future. These principles define what’s important to how we work — and they get updated as our experience and perspective increases too.

Here are a few examples of our Operating Principles:

We make every community member feel seen, heard, and known at Curate Well Co. We are not too cool for humans. Why: Belonging. Contribution. Community. Also, people remember positive customer service experiences. People remember when we over deliver or go out of our way to take care of them.  

Every employee must learn how to and regularly build relationships. From being relatable in our emails, to going out of our way to nurture new connections — every employee of Curate Well Co. must master the art of building relationships. Why: Not only do these relationships drive sales (referrals are by far our main source of business), but every incredible opportunity provided to the company is because of a relationship.

Listen, listen, listen — then ask strategic questions. Every employee knows how to ask strategic questions, asks questions often, and listens carefully for the correct answers. Why: Listening is different from hearing, and listening is required for intentionality. Asking strategic questions reveals information we need for the future.

 

Building Company Handbook

No matter how small your team is, create a company handbook (ours lives in a Google Doc) to host need-to-know information for your employees. During a new employee’s first week, we’ll send them our handbook to read over in detail, and then we’ll open the floor for questions. This gives the new hire a full understanding of your company, expectations, and the culture you’re building. It’s also vital to understand what you’re creating and to make decisions that enrolls the ability to treat your business like a business. Your company handbook can be outlined similar to this:

    1. Welcome Letter
    2. Company Introduction and details
    3. 10-Year Vision
    4. Operating Principles, Linguistic Abstractions, and Values
    5. People + Culture, Roles + Responsibilities, Org Chart
    6. Company Policies

Building an employee handbook is one of those “serious” business things you maybe didn’t think you needed, but we believe it’s important to run your business like a business. A few other examples of this:

  • Care personally, but don’t take it personally Business growth can mean more risk, more liability, and more opinions thrown your way than expected. One of my biggest learnings (that I’m still learning everyday) is how not to take things personally. It’s a balancing act of sorts to take personal care of your company, those you serve, and who you work with, while at the same time not taking experiences personally.
  • You’re going to have to make hard choicesOne of the not-at-all-glamorous roles we play as the leaders of our companies, communities, and cultures is the primary and/or sole Decision Maker (capitalized for effect). The number of decisions you’ll need to make can be overwhelming at times — and difficult. Making hard choices and following through is a tough, but needed, lesson in leadership.
  • Own your role as the owner — Understand that while your business might be of your creation, it’s not just about you. Building a culture even if you only have one employee will set you up for the future. For example, I have required reading for all new employees. It’s a mix of articles and books that allows them to quickly grasp the culture that we’re building and our “why.”
  • Ebb + flow is a natural part of evolution — There’s so much more to running your business than you’ll ever hear about on social media. Your days won’t be packed with constant upwards growth — outperforming last month, last quarter, last year, with few to no challenges along the way. There are seasons of pause and seasons of push for you and your team collectively.

 

Roles CWco. Hired for First

All the CWco. employees started on a part-time basis, with the expectation that, in time, they would go full-time. This strategy helped each person take their time onboarding, starting with small projects first and slowly making room for more responsibility, leadership, and eventually more hours.

The first three functions we hired for were content and creative, community, and operations. My suggestion: do an audit of your time. For three weeks, track every task and how much time you spend on it, then categorize those tasks. Once you can see how much time you’re spending in each category, ask yourself if you need to do those things, or if someone else can do it if properly trained and equipped. Start by hiring for the thing(s) that take the most amount of time, that you don’t necessarily need to be doing.

We’re continuously striving for a vertical business model. This means, we outsource when we need to, but prefer to bring functions in house whenever possible, and especially over time. This requires an agile and diverse-skilled team. As small businesses, our resources are generally more limited — but that doesn’t mean that you have less talent at your disposal. It just means you have to hire smarter.

 

Interviewing 

How you interview will determine how your team grows, and having more conversations upfront is better for your business in the long run — even if it makes for a more drawn out interview process. We conduct at least 4 interviews with our employees.

    1. Initial Meet + Screen: This is our opportunity to meet a candidate ‘face to face’ to get a sense of how they hold themselves, ask a few initial questions, answer any of their immediate questions, and explain the rest of the interview process. The goal of this interview is to put a face to the resume, and kick off the interview process.
    2. Technical Interview: In this interview, we focus on skills and experiences by asking situational questions and garnering specific examples of how the candidate has learned. The goal of this interview is to assess if the candidate is qualified for and capable of doing the job.
    3. Communication + Work Styles Interview: This interview is focused on the working relationship. We ask questions about having hard conversations, handling sensitive situations, preferences around feedback and experiences in various work environments. The goal of this interview is to understand if the candidates’ work and communication styles will mesh well with the company culture and the team.
    4. Team Member Interview: This interview is a chance for the candidate to interact with other team members. The team gets a sense of whether or not they’d like to work with this person, and the candidate has a chance to gain an alternate perspective from the team on what it’s like to work at Curate Well Co. The goal of this interview is transparency for all parties. 
    5. Bonus: Assignments: We often ask candidates to complete assignments or do exercises as part of the interview process so we can see their experiences and skills in action.

 

Onboarding

On the employee’s first day, we host a kickoff call to get them settled into their role. When we onboard a new employee, we set up an outline of expectations for the first 30, 60 and 90 days of their job and create a “success map” for them. We schedule training calls that correspond to their job responsibilities, and leadership calls to support their personal development. Each new team member is given required reading material (articles to books) to set the groundwork for the new hire to quickly grasp how we do things and gives insights into our culture. We also ask every employee to complete a user manual.

 

Perks + Benefits 

From a PTO policy that rivals those of some of the biggest companies in the world, to allowing early exits on Friday afternoons, to providing leadership and personal development training to all new employees, we’ve done some incredible things and I’m always interested in how we can continue to make a difference for our employees by offering benefits that make them feel valued.

 

A few of our benefits for full-time employees at Curate Well Co.:

  • PTO
  • Paid holidays, including two weeks off around the holidays and their birthday
  • Paid sick/mental health days
  • Company match of 2% of the employee’s salary towards their company-sponsored retirement plan
  • Flexible schedules + phase-out Fridays
  • Educational resources and continued education opportunities
  • Annual Team Retreat

 

Benefits we hope to add in the future:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid parental leave
  • On-site childcare
  • Reimbursement for home office expenses like internet

 

Authority vs. Leadership

I talk about the difference between authority and leadership a lot with my consulting clients, but this also applies within your team. Where authority says, “buy into me”, leadership says, “come with me.” Where authority shows, “I did this”, leadership says, “we’ve created this together.” True leadership calls for teamwork and a deeper human connection than is considered in traditional corporate environments.

 

Similarly to our external community, we strive to call in our internal community — our team. At CWco., we uphold the promise to always work in integrity, to claim ownership within our roles, and care deeply about our short and long-term goals collectively. With the right hire, you can build a team that is excited to be part of something larger alongside you, and who will help get you there.

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