Hiring a good team is challenging, especially in tech: the high demand for the limited pool of developers requires a different approach and new attitude towards attracting the right people. Chad Marais from The Gemini Solution has doubled-down on both a hiring process and an office culture (with a useful check-list that you can download too!) that together have helped him not only find the right people, but keep them too.
Gemini offers tech development and delivery solutions, and although they’ve only hired around 10 new people through OfferZen over the past three years, the magic lies in the relationships they’ve built with them: In an industry where every company is always flashing shiny new opportunities at software devs, Gemini has figured out what makes their devs want to stay. Simply put, Chad thinks this comes down to their philosophy around building teams: “We hire people, not resources.”
And, he hires a family. As he sees it, any director should feel honoured that people have put their futures into the company’s hands. Not the other way around. Based on this, he feels a familial obligation towards his colleagues and his friends, which expresses itself in the way that Chad - and through him, Gemini - does things, right from the start.
Personally reaching out before the interview
Generally, most applicants wouldn’t meet the director of a company during their hiring process - or, at least, only at one of the later stages. Chad, however, personally messages each person he wants to interview, and invites them to his offices for a chat. He sees this as a way of saying “Hey, I don’t want your sales pitch. I just want you to open-up about who you are.” Already opening that channel of communication so early helps him get to the heart of his interview later on.
Still, on paper, this part of the process doesn’t look too different from what you’d expect: Company invites job seeker for an interview, and job seeker visits their offices to have an initial chat. The real difference lies in what happens at this first interaction.
Person first, assessment later
Shifting the focus from the CV onto the person in front of him, Chad invites a potential new team member for a casual chat over a cup of coffee. He considers this a cultural interview more than anything else, and wants to know what makes people “tick,” what makes them different. He says: “Most tech hiring managers go: ‘We aren’t even going to talk to you unless you pass this technical test.’ But I go: ‘I’m not going to let you look at our technical test unless I like you.’”
Afterwards, Chad gets the potential new team member to play a quick round of Foosball with some of his colleagues. This isn’t part of the formal “interview,” but how well someone wins or loses tells him everything he needs to know about how they’ll integrate into his team. Camaraderie and culture are absolutely key to the way Gemini hires, and Chad stands by his belief that building a proper relationship, trust, and rapport with people you bring into your team makes all the difference. “If you can’t lose with pride at Foosball,” he explains, shrugging, “then you won’t survive. Simple.”
Knowing who you want to work with
With his clients, it’s much the same. Instead of customers choosing Gemini, Chad flips the process around by doing an in-depth analysis of their projects and operations before deciding whether or not to take them on. He believes in choosing quality over quantity, and will only work with clients who know exactly what they need, what they want, and by when; no fixed term projects. “We’re in business with you for as long as you’re in business,” he explains, “and the only thing that will break that contract is poor performance on our part - and that doesn’t happen. Because I hire the right people.”
Giving people initiative and responsibility
Based on these long-standing relationships, devs at Gemini fully integrate into the companies they work with, which is why you won’t find any project managers. Rather than “middle-manning” around projects, Chad and his devs work directly with their clients. He encourages his teams to take ownership, initiative and responsibility in order for them to understand that they’re integral to the “bigger picture.” The trust this builds with his devs and his clients is invaluable, because company members see the people they work with, and know the teams personally. Communication is an open-channel, and clients know they can reach their devs directly, and immediately.
In his own words, Chad wants to build a culture, not just company. That’s why people stay, because it’s authentic. If his colleagues leave work stressed or in a bad mood, then he sees it as a fail on his part. It’s the responsibility he sets for himself, and it shows in the company he runs and the people he hires - and keeps.
Here are eight principles that Chad uses to build a better work environment for his colleagues, and run a better company. Click on the image below to save it, print it, and stick it up - it’s for you to make useful however you see fit!
8 principles on how to run a better company:
- The people you work with are your colleagues - not your employees.
- Your colleagues are your family. Treat them as such.
- Your colleagues work with you - not for you.
- Your colleagues owe you nothing. You have an obligation to show them, every day, why they made the right choice in deciding to work with you - and why they should give you their all.
- Be grateful that other human beings have placed their futures in your hands.
- Lead by example - from the front.
- You are not better than anyone else in your company by virtue of being “the boss.” You were lucky enough to end up being “the boss,” so be the best boss you can be.
- Happiness before money. Clients follow happy businesses, so if you focus on the above - and make happiness your priority - the money and success will follow.