One of the biggest challenges young companies face is scaling. More specifically, how to put together a team with the right people; then grow and cultivate that talent as the company expands. If you’re an entrepreneur currently seeking engineers, you know exactly what I’m talking about here!
We color ourselves grateful to have some talented domain experts assisting us in finding the hungriest, smartest problem solvers out there to join our burgeoning company. Specifically, we’re grateful for Elizabeth Patterson, Chief Talent Officer at our lead investment firm, Mohr Davidow Ventures.
With over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience in the Technology, Lifestyle, and Consumer sectors, Miss Elizabeth is a rare breed. Not only is her breadth of experience vast and wide ranging, her passion is infectious.
After bugging her only once, she graciously offered to share some of her insights and expertise on what it really takes to attract top talent in today’s competitive market; and why cultivating community should always be at the heart of everything you do.
Rebekah Iliff: As the Chief Talent Officer at Mohr Davidow Ventures, can you tell us a little about the responsibilities of your role and how you approach your relationship with the various companies in MDV’s portfolio?
Elizabeth Patterson: I lead Mohr Davidow’s strategy for attracting and securing top talent for our portfolio companies. Part of my charter is to help high-performance entrepreneurs hone their leadership effectiveness. One of the programs I am most excited about is our community event series, #MohrDavidowMeets, which is designed to inspire our entrepreneurs and fast-track connections. I feel it is important to always approach these relationships with authenticity and empathy.
RI: Since you you play a critical role in aiding the firm’s portfolio companies in identifying and securing top talent, I’m sure you’ve seen it all. What are 2-3 key takeaways you can share from those companies who have had great success in attracting top talent?
EP: I’ve found that companies that are the most successful in attracting the very best talent view recruiting not just as an activity, but as part of company DNA. At these companies, everyone operates as a recruiter, and everyone helps to amplify the brand.
These hiring managers, executives and employees create “experiences” for candidates. They weave stories into their recruiting process, and share why their company and culture is great and differentiated from other companies. These companies take the time to understand candidates before and during their interviewing process so that they can personalize the experience. (Using social media tools like Refresh, Twitter, and LinkedIn can prepare you to be more engaging, thoughtful, and informed in a candidate interview.)
RI: Let’s take the flip side. What are 2-3 classic pitfalls entrepreneurs should avoid when seeking to expand their core team, besides avoiding assholes.
EP: Ahh, yes…the “no asshole rule.” Can’t forget about that! While high GPAs from Ivy League universities can certainly be of value, I tend to evaluate candidates from a more holistic perspective. For example, traits such as thinking quickly on your feet or being independent and scrappy may be worth as much as class rank.
Culture mapping cannot be underestimated either. You want to ensure that new hires share common motivations and values with the rest of your team. Test culture fits by sharing your company values throughout the interview cycle, and using them in the initial screening of candidates. If, for example, you value candidates who are doers vs. talkers, and a candidate is overly focused on when he or she will next be promoted or what their title will be, I would strongly reconsider this hire.
RI: At MDV, you are proudly known as the firm’s Social Nucleus. What does that mean? Sounds very very very serious. And important!
EP: One of our entrepreneurs, Kristina Wallender, VP of Marketing at Ticketfly, nicknamed me, “Social Nucleus.” I treasure that nickname!
“Social Nucleus” refers to the way in which I “pattern match” people using little facts that I remember about practically everyone that I meet. I leverage these little facts to connect people from disparate networks to one another in meaningful ways. I get a deep sense of satisfaction from making these connections. It’s almost like a puzzle that I am eager to solve.
RI: Finding great team members can be tough, really tough. Is there ever a moment when entrepreneurs seeking an exact fit should simply accept that good is good enough when it come to a potential hire?
EP: If you run the process strategically, there is always a great candidate to be found. Mistakes are made when hiring managers or executives meet a pool of candidates, don’t love any of them, yet say, “Candidate B will do. He’s the best of the lot.” Think more strategically. If you have a key hire, spend 10 to 20 hours with them if you need to. It’s better to do that than spend months of lost productively as a result of hiring the wrong person.
RI: Previously, you spearheaded community relations for NikeWomen where led initiatives to create a “customer-community.” What inspired you to focus on fostering a community vs. mere customer acquisition?
EP: At Nike we believed that “Together we are better.” In that spirit, we created a community of athletes to inspire, educate and achieve goals together. We launched nationwide weekly fitness meet-ups called “Get Fit, Girl!”, our signature NikeWomen’s Marathon, and philanthropic events where our community could give back in meaningful ways. By sharing many small moments with our NikeWomen customers, we were able to create loyal followers who were made to feel world-class. More generally speaking I feel it is important to always keep in mind how you are creating value for you customers. In this case, building a community supports this vision.
RI: Any parting words of wisdom for those looking to attract other first-class people?
EP: Be authentic to who you are in brand, as leaders and as people. In the long term, you’ll attract talent who aren’t just good for the role, but are a good long-term cultural fit.
Isn’t she grand? For more killer recruiting tips and uplifting positivity, follow Elizabeth here.
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