Smith & Williamson hosted a breakout panel at FutureScope 18, with a discussion focused on identifying and addressing barriers to scaling up.
Our panel discussion included people who are at the coalface when it comes to growth and success:
Paul Wyse – Managing Director of tax and business services and corporate finance expert at Smith & Williamson
Debbie Rennick - Director at ACT Venture Capital
John Morris - Scale-up Lead at Smith & Williamson London
Claire Carroll ; Senior Investment Advisor at Enterprise Ireland
Brendan Kiely – Managing Director and Co-Founder at ThinScale Technology,
Darragh Geoghegan - CEO and Co-Founder at Effective Software
Orlaith O’Brien – Co Founder and Partner at OBH Partners Solicitors
The discussion raised many skill gaps and barriers to scaling up your business in Ireland, including access to finance, access to markets, professionalisation. However, once again, business leaders in Ireland have identified talent acquisition as the number one obstacle to their firm's growth plans.
As the economy continues to grow, hiring talented staff is becoming an increasing problem for both big and small firms, in all sectors of the economy. The problem is compounded by rising rents and house prices, which is limiting immigration, and the emigration of skilled workers during the recession.
Large multinationals with greater resources can offer higher wages and greater incentives than the scaling firms. Attracting highly skilled and motivated people with less resources is an enormous challenge but scaling firms have some trump cards up their sleeves.
So what are the things that ambitious growth firms and their founders and can do to attract the people they need to fuel their ambitions?
Our panel discussion on scale-ups at FutureScope identified the magic ingredients.
Variety and challenge
Debbie Rennick believes that people working for large multinational companies tend to be very highly qualified and ambitious but working in often mundane roles and doing the same tasks every day. Taking the example of software engineers, she said; ‘’engineers want to be excited by the projects they can work on where they are stretched and challenged.’’ This was a point backed up by Claire Carroll of Enterprise Ireland, who said ‘’exciting companies with ambition have people queuing up to join them, they want to be part of something exciting, they want to build something new.’’
It’s not the money!
There are clearly opportunities for growth companies to attract skilled employees in large firms. It is not always about the money for many people. Brendan Kiely stated that new hires didn’t join ThinScale just for the money. An ownership culture, making engineers part of the decision making process and listening to their ideas is crucially important in attracting and retaining talented staff.
Retention, retention, retention
John Morris, Scale-up Lead at Smith & Williamson in London made the crucial point that firms should be working just as hard to retain their key staff as they are in hiring them in the first place. He also pointed out that a company’s values and culture are crucially important in attracting and retaining staff, building the culture should be a key focus of founders and the leadership teams. Firms need to be more flexible, open to flexibility and new ideas and scale-ups are best placed as their size makes them more nimble and agile.
In this extremely competitive environment, smaller companies will have to think outside the box in order to get the people they need to drive growth. Many companies will also have to spend more time developing their employees’ skills and enabling them to enhance their expertise. This is a key driver of employee satisfaction and will limit staff turnover.
Ultimately, for founders, the quality of the people you hire is what allows you to achieve your scale-up ambitions!