Scaleup Diaries: Learning from Scaleups

Scaleups reacting to the pandemic

For our latest Scaleup Diaries podcast, we sat down with Alex Packham, CEO and Founder at ContentCal, to chat about the effects COVID-19 has had on scaleups.

How is ContentCal adapting their hiring strategy?

“I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s okay not to have all of the answers. All of this has been hugely complex.

Despite the pandemic, one of our goals this year has been to grow our team and our people.

One of our tactics has been to conduct a lot more interviews. In a face-to-face interview, it’s easy to read candidates and get a vibe off them, but in a virtual world, creating a longer interview process works well because you need longer to chat to people.

We are taking our time with each hire to get it exactly right. Our longer interview process typically consists of three main stages:

  1. A ‘standard’ first stage interview
  2. A casual chat to gauge cultural fit
  3. An introduction to other team members within ContentCal

It’s important not to underestimate online vs. physical need. It’s really hard to judge and find people who have either worked from home frequently before or those who haven’t but are comfortable in a remote working environment. Finding this out is important because who knows what the future might hold, ContentCal may be fully remote for the foreseeable.”

You mentioned gauging cultural fit, how is ContentCal doing this remotely?

“It’s been a challenge for us, switching from one culture to another. Previously, our culture has been very office based and we needed to discover what that looks like online.

For me, it would be about giving ContentCal options. As a business we are currently all remote working and that possibly is something that may last forever. When we are given a bit more freedom, it would be a nice option to have a few office locations so that employees have the choice to meetup for much needed human interaction.”

One of the ways at ISL that we give candidates a feel of our culture is to have them sit in our reception area for 3-5mins. This gives them enough time to see friendly faces pass them by and get a real feel of the team. This is something really difficult to translate virtually. How have you been tackling this?

“I completely agree, and that too was something really important here at ContentCal.

I think it’s important to keep in your mind that if you’re interviewing one after another, it almost becomes routine, and you’ll find yourself jumping straight into the interview questions.

This is unfair on the candidate who may be really excited about that job opportunity as it could have been the perfect role.

It’s important to take time between each interview, pause, and enter each video call ready to make that candidate feel comfortable and relaxed before you jump into the interview process.

You’ve got to remember to create a normal experience even in not normal times.”

And leading on from that, how have you gone about painting a clear company picture virtually?

“First of all, I’d like to apologise for anyone who follows me on LinkedIn because I’ve been popping up a lot recently! But this is all a part of my strategy.

One of the things that I have done personally is to start posting regular content on LinkedIn and as a result of this, we‘ve found an increase in people discovering ContentCal as a potential employer.

I’ve even had many people reaching out to me directly about working for us!

This is because if you read around 5 of my LinkedIn posts, you’d get a really good idea of what it’s like to work at ContentCal.

I’d still like us to get better at having an employee branding system in place, so having a stream of good content coming out and the right pages on your website. There is always room for improvement in these areas, especially when you’re in the fast growth stage.”

How has the last 12 months changed the way in which you look for talent?

“If I looked at what the key things are that makes a great person or a great hire, they will be different now to what we were looking for 12 months ago.

The pandemic hasn’t necessarily changed this as our needs as a business do tend to adapt and change every year.

ContentCal now has around 40 employees and is at the stage of what I’d call a mini-org. Because we’ve moved away from being a small business of 10 people that all know each other very well, what we must do now is review skills, structure, the way of working, communication and processes in order to continue to scale. We do this every 10 – 20 people who join and amend accordingly.”

Sounds like you’ve achieved some great things this year! So, what does the future look like for ContentCal?

“Huge growth hopefully!

My ambition for ContentCal was always to have our product as the number 1 marketing platform in the world. It’s a big, big vision and a huge challenge, but also hugely exciting.

That’s why it’s so important to me to bring the right people onboard with you to come along on the journey.

I’m so laser focused on this and working out how to get there will be key in my future planning. Investing into more marketing, more sales, more technology, and new branding. There is a tonne of exciting stuff in the pipeline to help us on our scaling journey.

Keeping the energy high in the business is also key. Like I’ve said before, roles every year, so personally, I’ll be working out what comes next and how I need to change within the business to ensure I’m still adding value. Challenging yourself on this is vital.

But critically, I’ll be enjoying it! This year has really made everyone realise that their role, so looking at what you’re doing daily, especially through lockdown, it’s important to do what you love. I’m conscious for everyone who joins, that is in fact the case and we can build a thriving environment. Not just in revenue, of course that is important, but also making ContentCal a really great place to work.”

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