Growing rapidly means you can’t make mistakes in hiring
Making the wrong hire can set you back six months to two years. For fast-growing businesses, this can be an early existential challenge. They need to hire many people, quickly, and into roles with significant responsibility. With leaders regretting roughly one in three hires, the hiring process can feel like playing with fire.
This was the challenge that Hometime faced. At a time when Airbnb and other social sharing applications were rapidly accelerating in popularity, the founders of Hometime saw a gap in the market: there was a need for property management services that had national reach and scale, and would allow Australian property investors to trust their major investment in an organisation that could deliver reliability and with a high service benchmark.
At the same time, the founders knew they needed to move quickly to beat others to the punch. They secured a $6.7 million investment in 2019, and geared up to enter a major growth trajectory.
“We were doing around $40 million in bookings for owner funds with the properties we had under management,” Hometime Co-Founder and Director, William (Billy) Crock, said. “And now we are up to around $100 million. The processes that get a company to $40 million won’t stack up when you get to $100 million. So our board told us that Hometime was growing up, and we needed a safe pair of hands to help us transition to the next phase.”
The biggest problem they had was a nice one – as one of the first in the space, they had plenty of candidates interested in jumping onboard. Unfortunately, that also meant they had a lot of disparate skills, qualifications, and personal traits to work through.
Overcoming bias in interviews
Crock knew that relying on gut feelings was not the best hiring strategy. “I consider myself to have relatively high EQ, and I’m an engineer, so I’m super process driven. But even when looking for those people, and even with a high strike rate, if you rely on gut feeling you’ll make some wrong decisions. You’ll sometimes hire people that tick all the boxes and don’t deliver.”
Hire & Retention Analysis – Senior Financial Controller
Hometime needed a Senior Financial Controller to support the CFO with a specific set of capabilities required in their unique business environment. Two candidates that were exceptional on paper were shortlisted. AbilityMap analysis suggested that one candidate was a “jack of all trades” and consistent in their capabilities. The other was unbelievably good in some areas, but catastrophically lacking in others.
However, because the second candidate was so exceptional at presenting themselves, these weaknesses came across as a “surprise.” Were it not for AbilityMap’s readouts, this person would have been the likely hire, and ultimately fail to fit in with the organisation.
Thanks to AbilityMap, the steady candidate was selected instead, and has proven to be an exceptional employee.
To illustrate the point, Crock described a case when, very recently, the company was looking for someone to support the CFO in a Senior Financial Controller role. They shortlisted two candidates in the end, and as part of the interview process, ran them through the AbilityMap application. One candidate scored evenly across all categories, neither being in the top percentile nor having any significant weaknesses. The other, an exceptional communicator having had a senior role at Macquarie Bank, came out at the very top of the field in some areas, but scored very low in others. This surprised Crock, who spoke to AbilityMap Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer, Kevin Chandler, about those results.
“We looked at the read-outs. They were so different from the sense I got from an excellent interview,” Crock said. “Kevin said ‘Don’t go near this person – they’ll knock your socks off for the first three months and the first big project, but then their lack of focus and inability to be accountable will start to frustrate you.’ So we hired the other candidate and she’s been a godsend to the team.”
How AbilityMap delivered to hire wins
The CFO’s role, meanwhile, was actually the first time Hometime used AbilityMap. Immediately it proved its worth by leading them to hire someone that, on paper, was only the second-best performer.
“The reason we didn’t choose the best performer was that desire to have a ‘safe pair of hands’ and incredibly high levels of accountability,” Crock said. “We were able to use AbilityMap to fill a set of attributes that were distinct from the rest of the team’s capabilities. This let us bring balance into the leadership team.”
Achieving growth meant making critical hires in the sales team too, and here AbilityMap also ensured that Hometime found the right candidate. As Crock said, the hiring process for a sales role is very different to the CFO role, as the resumes of the best candidates are likely to be much more different from one another.
Hire & Retention Analysis – Growth Person
Hometime knew it needed to grow quickly to get ahead of the competition in the new category that the business was creating. Finding the right growth hire was critical to the future of the business.
The problem with hiring a growth person is that there’s no one background that candidates will come from. A financial role means that each candidate will have a financial background – it allows for a foundation to compare candidates. With this role, however, Hometime needed to find a baseline to compare the capabilities of candidates.
AbilityMap provided the solution by clarifying the key attributes and “soft” skills that they needed for the role based on Hometime’s unique environment. This provided the baseline that allowed them to directly compare candidates with very different work histories and experiences. Thanks to this, Hometime avoided the ill-suited data focused growth personality, and found the relationship and partnership driven expert perfectly aligned to building trust with property owners and rapidly growing sales and the sales team.
“If you’re hiring for a growth role, and you’re comparing a data-oriented performance marketing genius with a B2B salesperson, and also have an entrepreneur and intrapreneur applying for the role, it’s very hard to compare them, because they’re all coming from different backgrounds and experiences,” Crock said.
“That’s different from hiring a CFO. When you’re hiring for that role, everyone’s going to come from a finance background, and at that level of seniority. Additionally, everyone would have spent time in one of the big four or in a consultancy.
“But for a sales role, AbilityMap was enormously useful in allowing us to take people with very different backgrounds, and find ways to compare them against one another. This helped us to really draw out the attributes that we knew we were looking for – and direct us towards the B2B relationship-focused growth individual, with a background in Uber Eats and an understanding of the partner function, the asset and revenue relationship, and can build trust.”
The result was a resounding success. Hometime found someone that would not only directly support their growth through the critical rapid growth period, but also built and led a sales team.
“Beyond doubling our sales team, we’ve also doubled our marketing spend, because we now have confidence in our funnel,” Crock said.
AbilityMap is powering growth through partner assessment
AbilityMap’s ability to draw out the “brilliant jerk,” as Crock puts it, and protect the company from accidentally making the wrong hire, will continue to be integral to the company’s hiring process. However, they’re also looking to use it for a use case that no one originally intended: vetting their partners.
Our core team, of 80 people, building the Hometime offering, we operate ANZ, nearly every state, and a range of holiday towns.
Hometime operates what is essentially a network of hosting partners, with an element of brand trust, and local understanding to extract maximum revenue. Cleaners, managers, and other experts in an area sign up to work with us, and then take responsibility for looking after the properties that are in their local area.
However, quality control is still critical, because a poor experience with the wrong partners in one area would affect the company’s reputation across its entire network.
Enter AbilityMap. Just as it can effectively quantify a potential employee’s personal attributes, it can help screen these business partners. “We need to get really adept at identifying who makes a fantastic partner, and who’s got the character traits to carry the Hometime brand with them,” Crock said. “These are all entrepreneurs with little businesses themselves, and so we need to test the founders of these ventures, to identify the ones that also reflect our brand values.”
Thanks to making the right hiring decisions, Hometime has outperformed expectations and successfully weathered a lot in its short few years of operation. From COVID-19 decimating the travel sector, to the ups and downs of the short-term stay space itself, Hometime has been able to assemble a team that exhibits the core qualities of resilience, flexibility and comfort around change that has allowed the company to achieve and exceed its growth ambitions, year after year.