Paddy is a Talent Director at Atomico, based in London. He supports our portfolio companies and founders to find, hire, and develop world class teams.
I’ve spent the last eight years working with founders and start-ups solving all manner of people and talent challenges. These include finding exceptional people, international expansion, crafting company culture and building executive teams. I began my startup career with Improbable. helping to scale their engineering teams, first in London but then in San Francisco and Washington DC. During that time, I recruited across every business function and built and led a sourcing team that competed for the world's best talent with the FAANG’s of the world, despite not having their unlimited budgets and ubiquitous brands.
After that, I joined Sensat, growing the team from 20 to 90 employees whilst the business more than tripled its revenues and customer base. I led the People and Talent functions, designing and implementing the full spectrum of People-related programs from hiring through onboarding, reviews and culture setting. Alongside this, I’ve supported a dozen or more Seed and Series A businesses across performance management, salary benchmarking, manager training and coaching leaders. I’m excited to partner with Atomico’s portfolio companies to share some of my experience and help to build exceptional, diverse teams helping to solve meaningful world problems.
Disengaged employees cost $7.8 trillion each year.
Over the past three years, we’ve been inundated with reports about 'the great resignation' and more recently about 'quiet quitting.' The pandemic has reset what employees expect: flexibility, opportunities for growth and meaningful work are now table stakes. The key to building true engagement as a start-up is:
Be clear about your mission and the culture you want to cultivate.
Be deliberate about who you bring on board and how you grow them
Be genuine about your intentions and in your communication.
This might sound easy written down, but doing it in practice is hard. For the companies that can create great employee engagement the upside can be game changing.
Hiring great people is difficult.
The quality of the team you can assemble is the single biggest predictor of success in early-stage businesses.
But how do you do it with no brand awareness and a shoestring budget? One of the benefits of being a start-up, especially at the early stages is you can be nimble, you can do things that don't scale, and you can offer something that the large incumbents cannot. As a small business, every person counts, they are absolutely pivotal to your success, and if you succeed the rewards can be life-changing. That kind of centrality and opportunity isn’t something that the large incumbents can offer So think about what you are uniquely placed to offer, work to understand what your target audience wants and needs from their work, and show up in places where they are likely to be. That might include targetted outreach, warm intros from mutual connections, or even be showing up at relevant events.
Developing your company's culture is a lot like gardening.
Your company culture is the rules, norms and expectations that guide how your company works. Simply put, it's 'how we get stuff done around here.' I’m often asked how to change a company culture or what a good one looks like. I think a better approach is to focus on the type of culture your mission needs, and the kind of culture you want to be part of. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen over the years is when a company takes a set of values off the shelf, plasters them all over the walls and then proceeds to operate completely inconsistently with them. Famously, 'integrity' was one of Enron's company values… Building culture takes patience, authenticity and consistency. The analogy I like the most is that it’s a lot like gardening…
To be an effective gardener, you need to know what you are setting out to achieve - are you growing tomatoes? or daisies? From there you make decisions about the soil, water and sunlight you need.
Once you’ve planted the seeds you have to tend to them, over weeks and months, you have to water and feed and weed your garden. Over time you iterate on the formula, and you change your methods, but if you do the work, you can be confident of the outcome.
I’ve been known to dabble in karaoke every now and then…. As a kid I took part in all manner of talent shows and musical events. I was partial to Elvis as a 12 year old (I still think Hound Dog is one of the best songs of all time!). Whilst the sun has set on my dreams of the stage, I enjoy a rendition of Walking in Memphis when I get the chance!