e-biz: 5-minutes Q&A

The fast-paced staffing process of an e-venture

YourTown covers new ground in recruitment

Carlo Donne

Carlo Donne is CEO of YourTown-Today.com, a network of sites featuring a directory of local businesses. If you’re looking for a plumber in Edinburgh, for instance, you go to www.edinburgh-today.com and search for one. There are currently 47 towns covered in the UK and the company is moving into Europe. Donne came up with the idea for YourTown last November and 11 days later applied for venture capital.

PT There wasn’t much time between coming up with the idea for YourTown and having to staff up. How quickly did you have to put the workforce together?

CD This is certainly the fastest business growth I have ever experienced. In December the three founding directors worked on the feasibility and by the end of the month founded the company with three staff. By the time of the launch of our first city web site, Edinburgh, on 23 March, we had 12 staff. We now have 31.

PT What is the strategy for staffing YourTown?

CD Our strategy is to recruit the best talent and maintain a lean, flexible and enthusiastic staff. The three founding directors all have successful entrepreneurial backgrounds. First we recruited the key management team consisting of a financial controller, technical director, head of design, business development director and head of marketing. Next came technical and design staff and the sales team. We are not big enough to need an HR specialist so we split the functions. Our financial controller manages contracts of employment and health and safety issues. Line managers recruit and train staff. Our senior managers recruit direct sales staff.

PT What are your plans to grow the workforce?

CD Our plans involve expanding the national network of city sites from 47 to 115 next year. To do this we will adopt a franchise model, keeping a small headquarters for staff to co-ordinate the network. Most staff would therefore be employed by the franchisees.

PT What difficulties did you face staffing YourTown?

CD Finding the senior management team was largely a case of contacting former colleagues and explaining the opportunities. Scotland has a good supply of technical and design staff, both those still at university and those already in jobs. Getting the number of technical and design staff to match the company growth plans might have been a problem, but going the franchise route means that this expertise can be recruited locally across the country and, like any other organisation, we will always be looking out for good sales people.

PT How do you keep the younger staff motivated: have you implemented any bonus/incentive schemes? And what is your retention strategy?

CD We do seem to have a split between the experienced senior managers and the younger, largely technical and design staff. The younger staff are motivated by a combination of a wide job specification, the thrill of working for a new company, involvement in decisions, the demands of new technology and the culture of the firm which reflects the exciting pace of the industry. Our designers have the added challenge of working direct with customers when designing a new site. We are developing a Stock Option Scheme for all staff. Our retention strategy relies on providing challenging and exciting jobs with competitive rates of pay.

PT Do you use on-line recruitment sites and what do you think of them?

CD We have used Recruitment Scotland and our own sites to attract sales people. We also use regional newspapers and have found this to be most effective. But recruitment sites are the way of the future, particularly as more homes become Web-enabled.

PT What’s next?

We have just launched Student-today.com, an information portal for UK students. We have other niche sites on the drawing board. Plans are also being developed for expansion into continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

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