Joe Carnell's top 5 tips on hiring your first staff…

06 April 2016

Hiring your first team is the most crucial in whatever sector. Being in food retail, my team are such an integral part of the model and you have to objectify that cruciality from day one & here is a few tips to do just that...


Someone once said to me ‘Not one person is bigger than the business'. Admittedly at the time I chuckled to myself, whilst subconsciously submerged in my own self-importance. A naive, inexperienced 19 year old with my first official working title being Director. Little did I know that they weren't just lecturing me, they had hit the nail on the head, with the battle scars to prove it. A sentence which like a mother to a child, the barer of a business you must focus on trying to comprehend.

Two years later, with enough mistakes to my name to sink my growing battle ship, we are still afloat; with 4 UGOT stores to our name, a team of 45 of the best people I could have asked for and The Duke of York's New Entrepreneur of the year awarded to me in 2015!


The UGOT team was certainly not handed to me on a plate, you really do have to kiss a few frogs before you find your princess/prince and my journey was no different; however so far, extremely worth it.


Hiring your first team is the most crucial in whatever sector. Being in food retail, my team are such an integral part of the model and you have to objectify that cruciality from day one & here is a few tips to do just that;

1. Priority check; In order to fully comprehend the importance of your team you must divide up your model into sections, then whilst reviewing each section, one by one, remove another for the purpose of prioritising. For example, when I started the business I wanted branded coffee cups, a neon sign, a website, a UGOT van, an all singing all dancing office with fake grass on the floor to compete with innocent smoothies and a fully trained team of knowledgeable staff. Yet when you breakdown the sections and start to risk manage, such as if I didn't purchase the Neon sign from my list would it effect my Van, no. However on the flip side, if I placed no emphasis on my team it would have had a huge detrimental impact on my dream office. As a result you clearly start to see the difference between vanity and sanity when applying a priority level. This will then determine how much of your time you allocate to each section.


2. Self-Value, not importance; Hiring your first team is a funny one. At 19 the majority of my team were more experienced than myself, had worked for far more business' than I have and certainly had more battle scars, however you have to believe in yourself and your model; the very fact that I was sat there interviewing them must have said something. You must believe in your product, show vision at all times (even through adversity) and most importantly don't take no for an answer. You started this business for a reason, don't let your team steer you off track, take note however stay focused on your vision whilst using their experience to stabilise you; this must all be achieved without showing self-importance.


3. Butterfly effect; You get two types of people in business. Those with experience who can be moulded to an extent and those with potential who need close mentoring to maximise this. I would advise to have a mix of both characteristics, but the most important part is to allow for growth. Don't be scared of a strong member of staff with big dreams, take them in with open arms. Weak management hire weak staff as they are easy to manage, don't be that leader. Allow for butterflies to develop and spread their wings. Channel the energy into the correct commercial direction, that is your job.


4. Respect earns respect; You must respect each and every person in your team; whatever level, whatever background and experience. For example, instead of making your team come to your desk for a meeting, sit with them at their desk. This switches the emphasis back onto them, they will take more pride in what they have to show you, as it seems that you placed more of an effort into coming to hear what they have to say. 


5. Goals; This is the most important part of building a successful team. Yes you have business goals and yes you may set you team tasks, however in order for them (and you) to become fulfilled in the workplace, sit down with your team and help them work out their own personal goals. For example, allowing someone to learn a new skill by shadowing an experienced team member enables both team members to feel fulfilled; one is learning whilst the other is being learnt from. Both are extremely self-rewarding and will lead to increased productivity on all levels. Ensure you follow up on these goals and help out when you see necessary, trust me a little help here and there on a personal level goes further than you can imagine.


Like I said, these are just experience led tips from my 2 years in the helm. I'm sure if I were to revisit this in a further 2 years I would still be nowhere closer to fully comprehending the sentence “Not one person is bigger than the business.”