Young woman makes an uneasy or disinterested face while on a blind date in a coffee shop. The back of the young man's head is seen in the foreground.
Young woman makes an uneasy or disinterested face while on a blind date in a coffee shop. The back of the young man's head is seen in the foreground. Steve Debenport

BIZTALK: Recruitment is like dating. Don't be the dud date

Naomi Simson joins Queensland Times as a guest columnist for our latest series, Business Class. 

IN BUSINESS, as in life, it's paramount to surround yourself with great people. As Jim Collins said, "you have to get the right people on the bus". However, managing and leading people can be one of the most challenging parts of growing any business.  

The people puzzle was not necessarily an easy part of my own journey. I understand the challenge of recruiting the right people for the right roles, and my curious nature and desire for continued learning has served me well on this front. But it is not in my natural skill set. The people challenge can be a hard one when, as a start-up, you need to do everything yourself.

Cairns Chamber of Commerce luncheon guest speaker and Shark Tank judge Naomi Simson at the Cairns Convention Centre. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Naomi Simson is our guest columnist.

So I read and learned and stayed interested in what others did. I had no idea how to recruit, let alone engage and manage people.   In fact, I found my first team member by simply asking friends, "Do you know anyone who needs a job?". And when I needed to hire again, I said to my new employee, "Have you got any friends just like you?".  

Before I knew it, we were a team of seven - all friends of friends, with no real process. On reflection I think I was the one doing most of the talking in the interviews.

Welcome to our Business Class series.
Welcome to our Business Class series. News Corp

To be successful in business, a certain level of systems and processes will deliver you the opportunity for scale. (Too many can stifle agility and the need to move fast in changing industries. Not all systems and processes are created equal).  


But I would argue that recruitment is one area where systems and processes will set you free. Basing recruitment on personality or simply getting along in an interview, reduces the possibility for achieving the optimal result: finding the right people, with the right skills, for the right roles.  

Having sat next to Andrew Banks - arguably Australia's greatest recruiter - for four seasons of Shark Tank, I asked him, "What is the 'one question' that works best when recruiting?"  

After admonishing me about the question and ensuring me that recruitment is a long process that starts with the very wording and placement of an ad; identifying likely candidates; where they 'hang out'; and making sure you have a variety of diverse candidates… he said, "You must, even before speaking about the role itself, ask the person about his or her aspirations". What does he or she want in life?  

Recruitment is like dating: it is a two-way street. You have to make sure there's a fit on both sides.  

As a start-up or business owner, I know that every person's contribution is critical to overall success. Yet often budgets do not allow for a professional with a decade worth of experience.  

For many roles it is the values and cultural alignment that needs to be sought, rather than 'expertise'.  

Perhaps look at recruiting people a little 'outside the box'; people straight out of school or college; people looking for a career change. Think about hiring for attitude and training for aptitude. That's how I've found some of my best people over the years.  

Without budgets for massive salaries, let alone professional recruiters, in the beginning I had to inspire people to grow with me. It took determination, commitment and the development of an employee framework that would assist people to flourish. And it was absolutely worth it.  

We had a distinct 'all for one and one for all' camaraderie - we were all on this journey together. The workplace culture was what really mattered.   Find people who enjoy working in an environment that believes in the experience of work.  

I learned that people love being noticed, encouraged and nurtured. So my simple ingredients for  employee engagement are simple:

  • Do they know what they are here to do?
  • Did anyone notice?
  • Did they do they go home feeling like a winner?  

An entrepreneur and business leader; Naomi Simson co-founded the Big Red Group in 2017. BRG is all about serving experiences to different audiences through its various brands: RedBalloon, Adrenaline, BRG serves an experience every minute as the third largest experience marketplace of its type in the world. In this series we present some of her key learnings on how she grew her businesses.