People versus product: The tech start-up’s conundrum

Australia has a burgeoning tech industry with wildly talented entrepreneurs working incredibly hard to bring their vision to life and grow into larger companies.

Sydney is at the centre of this tech boom, with many of Australia’s most successful tech companies based here, including the likes of AfterPay, Canva, and Campaign Monitor. Mid-last year, the NSW Government announced Sydney’s answer to Silicon Valley, a $2.5 billion investment into ‘Tech Central’. Its 200,000 square metres of development is aimed specifically at tech start-ups, with major Australian tech company Atlassian, confirmed as the anchor tenant.

The bar is well and truly set high for successful entrepreneurship in Australia; however, there are a lot of hurdles to jump before becoming the next Canva. One of the most common failings? An entrepreneur trying to go it alone or not placing enough value on the team around them.

Tech start-up founders typically have a laser-sharp focus on their product, but as the start-up blossoms into a company with a team of staff, that tunnel vision can become a problem. All available resources go into product development and very little thought is put into the people working hard to bring the product to life, and those people are the key to the success or failure of your business. In fact, not recognising the value of your team is one of the reasons that 90 per cent of start-ups fail.

However, no person is an island, and start-ups simply often lack the HR expertise required to recognise and resolve employee dissatisfaction. So, if you’re at the tipping point from flying solo to becoming a fledgling company and wondering how to scale up, here we talk about why a people over product-focused approach is the only way forward for your tech venture to be successful.

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As your start-up grows, you need people to scale. Without people, the product fails

As an entrepreneur, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees when you are stuck in the daily grind of keeping afloat. Widening your focus ensures your company moves seamlessly from product-centred to people-centred in order to scale up.

How will focusing on people help my product evolve?

As your company grows, it’s the people you hire that are driving the product forward. Their technical skillset and grit to see your product succeed are valuable to your company, but not if they are burnt out and underpaid.

We understand resources are tight, but it’s not only money that keeps employees happy. Creating a great culture and an enticing set of benefits can balance salary limitations.

The shift from a product to people focus means a better retention rate and a more productive, energised workforce. There’s a pool of talent that doesn’t want to work for corporate organisations, they want to work for exciting tech ventures. With the right benefits, you can harness this talent to strengthen your business.

Focussing on people will help secure investment

Investors are looking at the big picture, while founders are deep in the details. To scale, you need investment, and to secure investment, you need a robust people and culture strategy.

This might include:

  • Internal HR Policies and procedures to navigate conflict resolution, health and safety, and misconduct, to name a few
  • Talent acquisition and retention strategy
  • An employee health and wellbeing program
  • Onboarding and offboarding strategies
  • Clear pathways for career growth
  • Clear roles, responsibilities, and an organisational structure

I love the product side of the business. How do I increase my people skills?

Not everyone is a ‘people person’ and that is okay! Bespoke emotional intelligence training and one-on-one executive coaching can help you recognise red-flag structures and behaviours within your company, laying the groundwork to become a confident, people-first leader.

How do I maintain the heart and soul of my company through this organisational shift?

The frenetic pace and passion found in tech start-ups are exciting; however, the blurred lines between roles and responsibilities in small teams can cause uncertainty and lead to resentment. Incorporating processes that come from the corporate world into your business will help you clearly define processes, job roles, and clear communication, making life simpler and clearer for your employees. Learning to lead with empathy and thinking carefully about an employee health and wellbeing program can create a values-led HR strategy that keeps the product at the heart of the business but puts people first.

I don’t have the time or resources to manage HR in-house.

Think of The People Practice as your remote ‘in-house HR team’. We know first-hand how start-ups are run. The energy and pace of a start-up is an exciting atmosphere to be in, and we understand how to mentor leaders and create values-led HR processes that work within your unique culture.

We’ve worked across both tech start-up, and corporate worlds and have the expertise and tools to advise as an HR consultant or come on board to manage the day-to-day running of your employee health and wellbeing program.

Renée x

Are you ready to become a people-focused tech start-up?

Talk to us today about how we can help your business scale through people-led HR policies and empathetic leadership.

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