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How to turn a frustration into a fast-growing business

Finding reliable part-time staff can be an absolute headache for small businesses, while on the flip side, it’s often difficult for jobseekers to find work that fits in with their schedules. 

This ongoing frustration sparked a business idea for Fiona Anson, and together with co-founder Alli Baker, the pair launched HireMeUp.com.au last year. The tech venture took a world-first approach to recruitment, connecting employers with candidates in the fast-growing part-time market – and the response to its offer was immediate. According to the founders, from day one jobseeker and employer registrations began building, leading them to develop new mobile applications and digital platforms. And already, just over a year in, the pair are planning to take the concept global.

Pretty impressive for two entrepreneurs with no recruitment or technology experience, don’t you think?

Here, Anson reveals what valuable lessons she’s learned about running a tech start-up and offers 3 tips for how small businesses can find the right candidate.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since launching the business? How have you overcome this?

Building a business on a tight budget – we’ve bootstrapped this business ourselves.

Although it’s been a challenge to achieve what we have with our budget, we now have 18 months of incredibly valuable research and development experience that has positioned us to take HireMeUp to where we’ve always known it would go. Had we had access to more funds from the start, we probably would have spent a lot more money on trial and error – but because we didn’t have big budgets, we’ve had to be incredibly resourceful and really listen to our job seekers and employers to deliver as much value as we can.

And we measure absolutely everything in the business, from site stats to results of marketing efforts, so we can really focus on getting the most out of every dollar we spend.

What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?

The freedom and the challenges.

I like that we have the freedom to do what we want to with very few constraints – but that’s not to say we work less hours than most. In fact, we work very long hours but we have total freedom to create our own destinies and make day-to-day choices – which you often can’t in a job. Sometimes they [decisions] are right and sometimes they’re wrong, but we can react quickly and respond to changes in a market in a matter of hours.

I think any entrepreneur will tell you that the challenges are the other thing they love. Taking the easy road is a foreign concept to an entrepreneur, and while some people might think that’s mad (and occasionally it crosses my mind!), the feeling that comes from an achievement that you’ve been wholly and solely responsible for and that you’ve overcome problems to achieve, is amazing.

Running a business comes with ups and downs – what do you do to get through the tough times?

I think we’d both tell you that we’re fortunate to be in a partnership that works incredibly well. We’re both very tenacious, resilient and creative. We find motivation in being challenged – don’t tell us we can’t do something! – and proof of this is that we decided to build a job site with no experience in HR, recruitment or technology. We had a brilliant idea and we went for it! We’re each other’s sounding board and when one of us is stumped by a challenge or is having a bad day, the other is there to give a pep talk.

Also, we both understand that failure is all part of the game, so with every idea we try to “fail fast” and keep moving forward. The important thing, whether you’re right or wrong, is that you try. We take risks constantly — sometimes they work the way we anticipated, sometimes they don’t. Often either result is just as valuable as the other, because the insights we gain from failure often lead us toward success. If we got it all right from the start, people would be looking for our crystal ball.

Looking back to when you first launched HireMeUp, is there anything you know about business now that you wish you had back then?

It’s not so much what we didn’t know about business and more about what we didn’t know about being a tech start-up. That’s been a huge learning curve for both of us and we’re now in a whole new world – the tech start-up space. Our trip to Silicon Valley back in May highlighted that. I guess we were really green when we started but we’re fast learners and it’s been a wild and exciting ride, and it’s not finished yet.

The reality is, especially in the tech industry, everything changes so fast that it’s one long, never-ending ride.  People have been asking us from the beginning “Is the website finished?” “Is the mobile platform finished?” The reality is that they never will be.  Just when you think it’s done, something new pops up – it’s an exciting space to be in.

Hiring can be tough for small businesses. What tips would you offer them about how to hire the right person?

We say this all the time, but it should be an employer’s mantra: hire for attitude, train for skill. You can train anyone with the right attitude to do anything, but the most skilled person in the world is useless if their attitude is bad.

It’s just as important to find out what a potential employee needs from you as it is to find out what they can give you. If you satisfy both needs, you’ll have a great, dedicated and loyal staff member for the long term.

Instead of a half hour interview with a list of questions and answers, do your second round of interviews at lunch so you can see how they interact with others. Even better is to have them work on a small trial project with your existing team to see how well they work together before making a decision. Yes, it takes time but it’s so worth it to get someone who fits, right from the get go.

What’s next for HireMeUp?

We’re really excited at the moment to be just at the beginning stages of development of our two new mobile applications and web platform that we will launch in early 2013. We’re turning recruitment on it’s head and the solutions that we’ll be releasing in Q1 of 2013 will totally revolutionise the way people find jobs and jobs find people in the part time world. The old-style online classified job boards just aren’t cutting it and our new solution is a huge leap away from that.

We’ve also got our eye fairly and squarely set on a launch in the US in late 2013/early 2014, where we’ve already had some interest. In the meantime, we’re currently recruiting businesses with roster/shift-based workforces to participate in an exclusive beta test as well as seeking capital partners to help fund the rest of the next phase.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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