We were so excited to have Jess Szucs on the podcast recently. Jess is the Head of Talent at Fathom, a fast-growing start-up based in Bristol. 

We got to pick her brains on the challenges of growing a business, as well as some great tangible takeaways that we wanted to share with you in this blog below! 

So what are some of the challenges of growing a startup business?  

“It’s a very long list! And obviously, not every startup will experience the same things. I think one of the things that you’re looking for is what the message is that comes from the founders because they are defining the working atmosphere and how they want their team to behave. 

You also don’t want to overdo structure and process in a small business, but equally, you don’t want it to become a chaotic environment that you’re in. And I think the other thing that could happen is, especially if you have a core group of friends who are, you know, having a good time, but they are also making a good business, you could have a lack of seriousness. And that could become something that you really want to avoid, especially when you’re talking to clients.  

You have to recognise the fact that, yes, if you have a good culture, people will go the extra mile. But they still have lives and families and kids and friends. You have to create an atmosphere where there is a work-life balance for the people who want to have that work-life balance. 

Does culture need to be defined from day one? Are there unwritten rules where you should start thinking about that? 

“I think culture shapes on its own wherever you define it or not. And, you know, let’s imagine that you have a group of founders, and they sit down and say “yeah, this is how we want to operate. And this is how we want to, like run the team” – it’s a useful exercise, regardless of what it’s going to be. But then the people who come in and their experiences and their culture will eventually contribute to your own culture.  

And I think if you define it in a way that you don’t really allow it to grow, that’s also not really a good thing.  

I think when you’re starting off, it’s good to have an understanding of how you want your employees to feel, And how you want them to cooperate. That lays down the foundations of how professional and strict or flexible your business will be. If you have good foundations, I don’t think there’s anything specific you need to worry about.” 

What else makes a culture healthy? 

“I think emotional safety is definitely number one. So if you create an environment where your people feel safe, to be themselves to talk about their ideas to contribute, you’re basically a start-up that your employees feel engaged in because they know that they don’t have to be stressed about coming to work.  

There’s a natural, relaxed environment that they are in, and they just realise that they can do whatever they feel it’s necessary to grow the business within sensible limits, of course.  

And the other thing is genuine and open communication. And I think that goes a really, really long way.” 

To listen to the full episode, click here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.