The challenges we've faced and the lessons we've learnt
Unless you’re willing to continue to be a 1 man show, a growing start-up is going to need people, the right people. The team you hire in your initial stages will play a crucial role in determining the kind of company you’ll become. With a reported 60% of UK start-ups folding in their first 3 years, it’s something you’re going to want to get right.
As with everything here at Quantico, we knew our recruitment process couldn’t just follow the ones already out there. We needed to craft one that aligned with our mission and principles to make sure the right matches got through. But we knew it went both ways. One of the first things a candidate is going to experience and form an opinion on is the recruitment process. Often faced with confusion and uncertainty, we didn’t want anyone going away with a bitter taste in their mouth. We had the opportunity to make it a system we would be happy to go through.
So how have we got to where we’re at today? It’s not been without its own teething problems and we’re definitely still changing things, but we think we’re on the right track.
Quantico is not an accounting firm yet we hire accountants… We need candidates to be fully aware of our mission and model - how we’re different from existing companies. FinOps is a term many applicants won’t be familiar with even though they’ve likely been implementing its approaches in their work.
So, we made our handbook completely open to the public. It’s got the principles of FinOps, our values, salary benchmarks, holiday policy and much more. Everything about Quantico is in there and we make sure to update it as we grow - we’re completely transparent. With such a wealth of information available before even the intro call, it pushes the wrong candidates to self-reject and it gives the right ones a deeper insight into the business.
We found that doing this also set the tone for the interview process. In the initial chat, a candidate who asks a lot of questions and knows about the model is usually a great sign. It almost acts as a litmus test for whether or not they’re going to be the right fit. Rather than leaving down the line because they didn’t realise how we organise holiday cover, candidates know already. Rather than spending time explaining what our working hours are, we can use it to delve into the deeper stuff.
So, all our salary benchmarks are available online but how do we make sure everyone is paid fairly? Often salaries are benchmarked against previous roles but what if they were overpaid or, common amongst underrepresented minorities, underpaid? We came up with the skills ladder. It’s a clear, set path for growth that’s completely based on feedback, not your tenure or the brands you’ve worked with in the past. Everyone starts at the very beginning of the ladder so we’re all on the same playing field.
Naturally, having no salary negotiations has been the source of some contention. Candidates that feel overqualified ask why they’re starting off the same as everybody else. Put simply, our appraisal system is meritocratic. If they’re already reaching next level’s targets, they can move up to the next step of the ladder (sometimes even jump 2). Furthermore, we recently changed these appraisals to be every 3 months, so employees pay is inline with their growth, rather than them having to wait around an entire year. In our line of work, we don’t need great salary negotiators, we need great FinOps innovators!
We also had to deal with the fact we’re hiring in 2 different countries: the UK and India. In the UK, the hardest part is convincing people to leave an otherwise stable sector to join us. We’re a start-up shaking up the status quo and exploring unchartered ground.
The focus for attracting UK FinOps Leads and Managers became showing them an alternative to their current career, one in which they’re usually discontent. Quantico is changing the relationship people in accounting and finance have with their jobs - it can be fulfilling and exciting with the variety of work we can provide. We also focus on aspects outside of monetary remuneration. There’s room for personal development with our dedicated Learning & Development hours during which we organise workshops (otherwise, employees can seek out specific skills they wish to work on). Furthermore, everyone has access to MoreHappi, a coaching service, to help guide them through career decisions, relationships and more.
In India, the challenge is explaining how our chain of command truly is different. Potential FinOps Associates need to know that they don’t have to suck up to managers and that they will have a great deal of autonomy. The final step in our process has come to play a big part in showing this. It’s the chance to talk with a founder but this isn’t just a boring Q&A. It’s the opportunity for an almost career coaching session to help them figure out whether they’d like it and excel or not. Plus they get to ask any questions to the people at the ‘top’, for want of a better word, in more of an informal chat.
As we continue to expand, we’re of course facing new challenges. Recently, we’ve begun hiring full time outside of FinOps roles such as operations assistants and marketing roles. Initially, we started off with a budget for each but soon realised that went against our model. Plus we couldn’t just make things up as we went along. Each role needs to be treated just the same as the FinOps roles - with transparency. We need to apply the same approach across the entire process. While our expertise lies in FinOps, we’re enjoying learning for these new roles.
We’re also really pushing to diversify the workforce, something we feel is particuarly needed in our industry. We are encouraging applications from diverse backgrounds to apply, ensuring a fair and transparent interview process and that we are aware of interviewer bias and have sensitivity training. Switching up the status quo and changing the accounting profession is what we do, we’re putting our money where our mouth is, making adjustments and implementing policies where needed.
It’s still a work in progress but from the feedback, we’re happy to say candidates are coming back with positive comments and best of all, confirming the vision we had for it to be transparent. It’s a 2-way evaluation. Feedback throughout the entire process, be that the handbook information to the practical interviews, is that candidates know what’s coming and how long it’s going to take. We’re not trying to trick candidates, we just really want Quantico to be the best choice for them, as that usually means they’re the best choice for us. If it’s not a f*** yes from both sides, its a no.
Our advice? A start-up by definition breaks new ground. This goes for everything, it’s not just limited to your product or service, it’s also applicable to the inner workings and structure of your business. Sure there are some great processes to use and get inspired from but they won’t be tailored to your company. Start at the very basics: define your company values. Staying true to your company and its mission is what will make applying attractive and in turn attract like-minded candidates. Plus really, what’s the point of having a business if you can’t mould its processes into ones you're proud of?