While it’s every start-up’s aim to focus on growth, there can be pitfalls to chasing growth too quickly. Jess Mouneimne explains how she learnt the cost of a bad hire the hard way.
- Player: Jess Mouneimne
- Company: Jam Media
- Launched: 2013
- What they do: Communication and brand development solutions
- Visit: jammedia.co.za
What is one of the biggest growth lessons that you’ve learnt through Jam Media?
I absolutely think you can chase growth too quickly. You may think achieving a certain turnover target is possible through one or two simple moves. For us it was hiring a bigger team. I went through this process in 2014, thinking that quickly expanding my team would open up capacity to deliver to more clients.
I rushed into hiring and even though I thought I went through a thorough recruitment process, my new team members came and left within three months. They were integrated poorly into the rest of the team and I had not put the correct systems in place to manage a larger team.
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When did the poor hires become noticeable?
Poor hires aren’t always immediately noticeable. The individuals I hired were quickly accepted by our clients as their account managers. There was something I had liked in them, and our clients responded to this as well.
Unfortunately, while they were great with clients, they couldn’t meet deadlines and didn’t comprehend the work properly. When they suddenly left, there was a vacuum, leaving clients feeling uncared for.
When clients are shunted around from account manager to account manager and team members come and go, the result is a lack of trust that you have to work hard to win back.
How have your processes changed as a result of this lesson?
I have always known that I tend to be enamoured with people for the most random reasons. I’ve hired people in the past because they had grit or they were a friend, instead of how well they suited the position or the company culture.
I realised that I was too empathetic for my business’s own good, and that I needed an HR professional to assist in hiring.
This gave me a second opinion in all my hires. Unfortunately, I didn’t always listen to the advice I was given, and because we were growing fast I was in a rush and didn’t check references well enough.
I have also learnt that I tend to hire personalities very similar to mine, which is not what my business needs. I don’t believe there’s a magic recipe for hiring — it’s always a gamble — but if you take your time and do multiple interviews, you have a better chance of getting to the core of the candidate and finding the right fit for your business.
How did you resolve the situation and cultivate good client relationships as a result?
When it happened to us, I had to be honest, explain the situation and why it had happened and assure our clients that I would personally oversee their accounts until we found a suitable account manager.
My longstanding clients stuck with me and one or two who did not know our history chose to part ways with us. It was a rough time and the losses stung. Not only did I suffer the financial loss of the bad hires and time invested in them, but I lost turnover as well. I learnt a valuable lesson in hiring and growth. Staff are integral to your organisation’s success, and finding the right employees takes time and planning.
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You need buy-in from the rest of your team as well. I now get as many team members as possible to weigh in on hiring choices so that there is support and accountability; I do multiple interviews and I check references thoroughly.
Growth requires a team, but rather take longer to find the right people than make bad hires who cost you money and just end up leaving anyway.
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