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Updated 30 Mar 2020


Lessons from game changer Stafford Masie

CEO of Google Africa, Stafford Masie on why managing a team starts with hiring right. 


04 December 2013  Share  0 comments  Print


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Known for being the first CEO of Google Africa, today Stafford Masie spearheads a number of start-ups that are making waves in the tech space.

Despite his own diverse set of skills and experiences however, he’s a firm believer that great businesses are built on teams. Who you hire is a major factor in your business’s overall success.

Here are his five rules to hiring right.

  1. Be strict about who you hire. Don’t hire to simply fill a position. Hire because that specific individual will make a difference to your company. “In Thumbzup, a start-up I recently launched, we’ve focused on recruiting the alpha geeks of a number of industries,” he says. “We haven’t used recruitment agencies, but have hired based on peer-revues and personal recommendations. Because I don’t like to micromanage, I want mature, brilliantly competent, independent thinkers with the right attitude in my companies. My goal is to create teams of people who want to have fun and learn with people who are smarter than them.” While not every business can necessarily hire the alphas of their field, as a business owner you can determine what values are important to you, and then tap into your networks and ask for referrals of people who match those criteria. Skills can often be taught, or used in other areas. Attitude however, is engrained.
  2. Understand that magic comes from mixing skills.“In thumbzup.com we’ve got PHDs, astrophysicists, even a marine biologist,” says Masie. “We’ve focused more on a collective knowledge base with a wide set of skills, than ensuring everyone has a degree that matches their job title. Skills are permeable, and real creativity comes from combining disciplines. We’re all about cross-pollination. That’s how magic happens.
  3. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Once you’ve got a great team who you trust and who you’ve empowered to make decisions, you can really push them to greatness. “I see my role as the guy who says, ‘Okay, that’s great, but can we make it do this’.Because I’ve surrounded myself with people much smarter than me, I can be the dreamer. They tell me something’s impossible, and I argue that it’s not. I push them, and eight times out of ten they find a way.”
  4. Choose who you work with based on conviction.“This goes back to passion, and is as true of entrepreneurs as it is of employees. People who are only interested in how much money something will make them are missing the bigger picture of what it takes to create something new. I’m interested in whether my team shares my underlying convictions. I believe we should all be constantly thinking ‘This will change people’s lives’. If we get that right, the rest will follow. True inventions happen when people are having fun playing around with ideas.”

Always have some real experience on board. “In every team I’ve ever built, I always have at least one silverback on board. Industries might be changing, but there’s no substitute for real-world experience.

When I was younger, I bounced every decision I made off my father. I trusted his insight and advice. This is so important in any business. Make sure you’ve got an experienced person on board that’s seen the common mistakes and knows how to avoid them – and then trust their instincts.”

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