Scaling a business is like walking a burning tightrope. The faster you go, the more likely you are to fall off. But if you go too slowly, the rope will burn…
The Chief Operating Officer of your business is the tightrope walker, they are responsible for scaling business operations quickly and efficiently enough to support growth. From optimising processes and day-to-day activities, to managing the budget, to supporting Human Resources. It takes a Wizard of Ops to manage and optimise these functions.
We sat down with the COO of HubbleHQ, David Anderson, to find out how he architected HubbleHQ’s operations strategy and helped double the team headcount in a short period of time. David shares some excellent hiring and retention practices, and gives valuable advice for all those people in ops who land the mammoth task of searching for an office space.
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Following the Series A funding round last Christmas, the team doubled in size. How did you scale your operations to make this possible?
David: After the fundraise we had plans to double the size of the team within 6 months, which meant hiring at a rate of one person a week. This was not something we had done before. We were also hiring across the whole business which meant running 10+ processes in parallel, with different hiring managers, interview formats, and induction programs.
At that point in time, I was handling all hiring and people ops myself, doing everything from speccing the roles to sourcing to CV screening to offers to contracts. This was clearly not sustainable. We had to make sure we had someone doing this full time and so we prioritised hiring a Talent Manager – someone who could recruit and also help improve and manage our onboarding process. This was the key to being able to deliver all the other hires on time.
If you’re looking to hire at an uncomfortable pace, it’s super important to have an individual (or team) 100% dedicated to hitting your hiring goals.
How did you make sure you were ready for the onboarding processes?
David: We started off by formalising and documenting processes that had previously lived in people’s heads. We created an onboarding checklist, which included everything that needed to be done from the offer stage, all the way through to passing probation.
It can be scary starting a new job, so we tried to put new starters at ease by communicating with them regularly prior to their start date and inviting them to team drinks.
When the start date arrived, we also made sure that we had a more structured induction programme in place, including a list of the people in the business that the new starter would need to meet in the first week, and the content that needed to be covered. The managers of the new hires were given responsibility for any role-specific training, lessening the load on the ops team.
Check out these tools to help further lessen your workload.
How do you find the right employees when you’re expanding so quickly? Do you have any advice about hiring practices and retention that could be useful to COOs out there?
David: There’s always a tension between maintaining your hiring bar and getting people through the door quickly. I would always encourage businesses to keep standards high even if that means taking a bit longer to hire.
Hiring well comes down to filling the top of the funnel with a high volume of qualified candidates, filtering them quickly and effectively, and minimising disruption to the existing team. Filling the top of the funnel requires experimentation. Try out different recruiters, job boards, fairs, event sponsorship, networking, direct sourcing, etc. and see what works. You can even experiment with job title – try putting up the same role with two different titles and see which gets the most interest!
We are hiring for a variety of roles at the moment, and we have a really exciting roadmap ahead of us, there’s never been a better time to join HubbleHQ.It is important to make sure that during the first interview, typically a phone screen, you spend as much time selling the company and the role as the candidate does selling themselves. You want to be able to hire or reject them not the other way around.
Speed is crucial. It is easy to lose candidates by taking too long with the process. It should be possible to get someone through from application to offer in a week, sometimes even a day.
Hiring can be a huge drain on the capacity of the existing team, so I would encourage hiring managers to find ways to minimise this. One way is to use tests that can be done remotely. Another way is to have various checkpoints throughout the hiring process so you don’t waste time interviewing someone that has not been successful in an earlier interview. There is no point having four hours of interviews in one day if it is clear after 30 mins that the candidate is not going to be a good fit.
Above all, it’s super important to make sure that every candidate has a positive experience, whether or not they’re right for the role. Ideally, you want them to leave having learnt about what we do, and feeling like they have gained something from the process. After all, they could be a future hire, a customer, or they could simply write a review on Glassdoor.
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We’ve moved offices three times since December, how did you help to minimise disruption with these moves?
David: When I was in a leased space at a previous company, moving office was a big operation. But at HubbleHQ, we’re in a serviced office, which means that all we have to move is ourselves, our personal belongings and our screens. It really is plug and play, such that the move can be done in an afternoon with very little disruption to the team. It literally involved renting a van, bubble wrapping our own screens, loading the van, getting the tube over to the new office, unpacking, and getting back to work!
Do you have any top tips for people in operations who land the job of searching for an office (when they don’t have any experience in this area)?
David: Come to HubbleHQ!… We have helped hundreds of companies with their office moves, whether that is general advice on when to start looking, the search itself, or the logistics around the move. And don’t worry, we find that a lot of people we help are also doing this for the first time and are having to manage the office search alongside their day job. We can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you…for free! The hard part and the most important part is finding the right space for you, and that’s what we’re best at.
Or I would recommend speaking to someone who has done it before, or other ops and office managers who are going through the experience for the first time.
Want to join a community of awesome ops people? Check out Wizards of Ops on Facebook and LinkedIn to find valuable information, advice, connections, and meetups related to your role.
Are there any operations tools you can’t live without?
David: You can solve a lot of problems and manage a lot of processes with a Google spreadsheet! Outside of G Suite, within the ops function we use Workable for our ATS, CharlieHR for our HRIS, Monday.com for task management, Calendly for booking interviews and meetings, and Xero for accounting. Although you have to be careful – the cost of software subscriptions can get out of control very quickly! It is important to do regular audits of your tools and cancel anything that is not being used.
Check out this list of useful tools for people in BizOps roles.