The SightLine team was recently featured on Andrew Hoekstra's #leadwithdata podcast. The conversation led to building a small startup team, so Ashley and Erin are discussing their perspectives on it in this blog post.
Erin: In the podcast, we talked a lot about matching company and personal values in key hires for startups. I think being on the same page with values is critical because if you spend a majority of your energy debating values, it will hinder company growth. What are your thoughts?
Ashley: Company values are something that can cause underlying strife in a company of any size. Sometimes it is hard to recognize or put to words what is going on when there are issues with an employee or partnership but often it comes down to a disagreement of values. When a company is so small, a company’s values are actually the individual team member’s values so it is somewhat personal and can be difficult to discuss and define.
Erin: Trust is also a huge component in building a startup team. You served as the founder and sole employee of SightLine for several years. How hard was it for you to find early key hires and what role does trust have?
Ashley: Yes, trust is very much tied up in company values, at least at SightLine. Our customers are trusting us to work with sensitive information and to advise them truthfully. We are here to serve our customers truthfully and loyally so that is also what I look for in a business partner and in new employees. I had known Erin from years ago and to see her continue to build great relationships over those years, gave me the confidence that I could bring her in as my partner.
Erin: My career experience prior to SightLine was in large corporations and medium sized universities, so coming on board with a small remote team at SightLine was quite a change. It took a while to get used to working from home and not going to a physical office seeing my team daily, but I am thankful for the ease of staying connected with video conferencing and shared files.
Working with a small team, it is refreshing to make decisions quickly without having a seemingly endless chain of command to work through. Recently, we decided to try some new marketing strategies. After we talked about it, we developed the content and implemented within a few days. Sometimes in my previous jobs, it would take months to implement small ideas because of the large amount of red tape involved!
Another thing that I find gratifying working for a startup is seeing the impact of my efforts. Developing relationships with clients and helping them reach their goals makes my job very rewarding.
I know that your experience going from a sole employee to bringing on a business partner was different. Do you want to talk about that?
Ashley: The biggest change for me was that more of the smaller projects that I started got finished! When you are working alone, you feel like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill every day and then you let the boulder roll down the hill and you have to do it all over again. With Erin here to pick up the slack, she gives me feedback, moves projects forward, keeps customers or prospective customers moving forward with implementations and it makes a world of difference.
It was difficult for me to train on a new person because at a start-up everything changes quickly. You may have a sales process written down but you realize it is not working and you switch things up and that document is out of date within a month. I had to take the experience from my own head and transfer it to Erin. I think that freaked Erin out in the beginning because she expected something much more formal but when the company is that small, that is how it goes! Part of Erin’s job is actually to formalize processes and get some of this down on paper, so it is easier for the next employee.
We are working on defining our values, business processes, and relationships early so that continuing to grow our team should hopefully be a bit easier! Erin, what are some of the things you would like to focus on over the next few months as we bring on new team members?
Erin: I’m focusing on ensuring we have a welcoming onboarding process to help the new employees feel not only good about their decision to join our team, but motivated to hit the ground running. In my experience, the quality of the onboarding process reflects greatly on the satisfaction new employees feel. If we have happy new employees, they will be motivated to help move SightLine toward our many lofty goals for 2021 and beyond!