How to recruit for growth

Gary Turner, UK MD of cloud accounting firm Xero, explains what he wished he'd known about rapid scaling.

Last Updated: 04 Apr 2019

Managing growth can be a dizzying experience. While rapid expansion brings increased revenues, capacity and market share, this usually comes with significant disruption to the organisation.

It’s a quandary that former Microsoft director Gary Turner faced while scaling the UK arm of the New Zealand based accounting software firm Xero. In 2009 the start-up employed three people and posted revenues of £50,000; now it employs 300 people and turns over nearly £50m.

For him, the biggest challenge has been recruiting for the company’s rapidly changing needs.


"In the early years we were growing our revenues year on year by 100%. I would look at the business as it was, identify what it needed and then find solutions or recruit to suit those needs. I didn’t consider how those needs would change in the near future.

"We were growing so fast and the business was changing so quickly that by the time we'd found a solution - be that bringing in a new member of the leadership team, a new process or new staff - 18 months later it would be obsolete.

"If you focus on what your business needs today it's too late already. I’ve learnt that in a high growth business you need to hire with a view to two or three years down the line.

"That means probably paying more money than you're comfortable paying, hiring somebody who is bigger than you need to be and asking them to downshift for a year while the team grows around them.

"It can be a difficult concept to get to grips with. Why would you want to take someone who is currently running a one hundred person team and ask them to run a ten person team? But there's a huge disconnect there, you need someone who is capable of running a ten person team but that team is growing very quickly and will soon be a one hundred person team.

"We've undergone that to some degree across everything function. But had I known what I then learned, we probably would have hired someone bigger."

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Here are five secrets on how to transform your start-up into a scale-up from the co-founder of yoghurt brand The Collective. To find out how private healthcare company London Doctors Clinic manages its growing pains, read this piece. And what happened when Equitable Life stopped men writing job specs? This article reveals how subtle changes in recruitment policy can have a big impact.  


Image credits: Indysystem/Gettyimages

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