Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Value of Investing in Talent
Building a cohesive and knowledgeable workforce is the cornerstone for stable growth.
When contemplating the pressures entrepreneurs face when starting a new venture, fundraising often springs to mind first. Tech talent, however, can be scarcer than capital and may, in fact, be the biggest issue businesses face. Securing funding is naturally the first hurdle but building a cohesive and knowledgeable workforce is the cornerstone for stable growth and not so easy to achieve.
Attracting investment, although a daunting milestone, remains achievable, even in spite of the chaos caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. 2020 is on track to be a record year for investment in European tech in particular, with an incredible $12bn was invested in SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) companies alone.
However, with nearly two thirds (65 percent) of technology leaders claiming that challenges around hiring talent are hurting the industry, the issues around skills shortages firmly remain. Demand for tech talent continues to grow at a pace unrivalled by any other industry: an issue exacerbated by an existing skills gap. And, while it's predicted that this gap might begin to close as people retrain post-pandemic, it remains a significant problem right now. I've seen first-hand otherwise promising new ventures and start-ups struggle due to a lack of skills.
Moreover, as the Silicon Valley mantra of "move fast and break things" persists on both sides of the pond, it's increasingly important for businesses to take ideas from notes on a napkin to marketable reality in a matter of months. It's vital, therefore, that companies find the personnel that can deliver – and deliver quality – at pace in order to help them stand out in a crowded marketplace.
We live in a digital age where speed is paramount to the success of businesses across all industries. Traditional operations must adapt to a digital-by-default model if they are to survive – let alone thrive. It's clear, then, that entrepreneurs need to look beyond funding when building their business. In addition to fundraising, they should be surrounding themselves with the people that will help them to bring their ideas to life in the smartest, quickest time possible.
Expertise and experience.
But it's not necessarily about taking on new personnel. Entrepreneurs can tap into a range of targeted communities in business and personal networks, which they can harness to open up access to entire ecosystems of expertise and experience. This is where early-stage accelerators such as Crowdcube, Founder Factory, and Y Combinator can really add value, connecting entrepreneurs with experience as well as fellow founders, so collective lessons can be shared. Online communities found on LinkedIn and Twitter shouldn't be overlooked either: knowledge is power, but there's no knowledge without people.
The guidance and counsel that these communities can offer could prove invaluable in enabling entrepreneurs to build and ship higher quality digital products – faster – while, at the same time, developing the skills of their existing employees. Building a community of experts with experience across the enterprise landscape enables companies to embrace digital skills alongside traditional models and grow their business, adapting to the skills and processes they need to succeed in today's marketplace.
Interestingly, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has expanded the size and scope of these ecosystems. With lockdown measures forcing most people to work remotely, they aren't constrained by a typical nine-to-five working day in one set location, making more people accessible and available. What's more, many of those workers who have been furloughed or, worse, made redundant over the last 12 months have taken the opportunity to retrain for new careers. Offering a mix of experience and capabilities, approaching this particular set of people can help bring a fresh perspective to an entrepreneur's vision and new business proposition.
Tweaks to technology.
Making tweaks to the way a business employs technology can also go a long way to improving the speed and quality of its product delivery pipeline. Often, however, knowing which tweaks to make – and then actually making them – can be beyond the reach of a company's existing skillset. Hiring in-house may be the right move for some, but founders should also seek out specialist third-parties whose technical expertise lies in the domains their business needs, such as software engineering, UX design, or delivery optimisation. If time is of the essence (as it usually is), this can often be the quickest route to optimal outcomes. Where possible, make sure to pick a partner that helps to build your team's skills whilst accelerating your delivery.
Sometimes, it's just a question of unlocking the value of data you might already have. It's no secret that most modern companies now generate vast quantities of data, but there is a very big difference between capturing raw data and translating it into decisive or predictive action, and competitive advantage. The right personnel or partner can prioritise actionable data to create a winning transformation agenda – from setup, to ongoing measurement and analysis.
And the benefits here shouldn't just be reserved for early-stage startups or tech companies. Whether it's a major high street bank, an iconic high street retailer, or a craft brewery, joining forces with a suitably skilled technical partner can help supercharge any organisation's ambitions and delivery pipeline. Technology now plays a critical role in every business – perhaps more than ever during the current coronavirus crisis. The secret to creating a successful company is increasingly the way in which its businesses utilise technology. And while it's important to raise funds to invest in the right technology, it'll be for nothing if no-one within the business knows how to use it to its best ability.
For this reason, it's in the best interest of entrepreneurs to ensure they're surrounded by the best possible tech talent, whether they're on the staff, part of a community of trusted advisors, or a third-party specialist. Embarking on new venture will produce any number of challenges. While funding certainly matters, taking care to find the right tech talent will help overcome many of these.