The Primacy of Talent
More than in any other sector, talent is critical in Media & Technology.
Our recent round table lunch at The Delaunay, co-hosted with leading technology and digital media law firm Kemp Little LLP and chaired by Oscar Jazdowski, Head of UK Origination for Silicon Valley Bank, considered the primacy of talent and how entrepreneurs can keep their teams, and themselves, enthusiastic and motivated.
Talent over tech
Even for technology companies, the attendees at our round table were clear that the people are the single most important asset in the business, and key to building and driving its value. This is particularly important in the formative years, while the business and brand are being developed; once the business has achieved scale and stability, it should be less dependent on a small number of key individuals.
But people will always be essential. However well-protected, most technologies can be replicated or worked-around by deep-pocketed competitors (although whether they can build the right level of market share is a separate question). But loyal, motivated, happy staff who are developing personally and professionally are difficult to poach and will remain a long-term source of competitive advantage.
Finding them and keeping them
So how do you recruit, retain and motivate the best people? Motivating techies and creatives is notoriously difficult, and you might be tempted to start with cash. But most of them want to work with the best and latest kit, and to do good creative exciting things (for clients or internally), with people they know and like and respect, and they will find these aspects more motivating than money.
Keeping them interested often means keeping them learning. One way to do this is to encourage people to work in diverse, multi-disciplinary teams – so that artists and engineers work together and learn from one another. This is also a good way to foster innovation, as discussed in our previous post.
Another is a more structured approach to learning. One attendee described the internal ‘university’ the company runs, with weekly internal sessions on a wide range of topics, not directly relevant to the business itself but of intrinsic interest. Implementing a scheme like this also helps embed a culture of on going personal development within the organisation.
Larger organisations can benefit from online learning and workforce management software, helping them keep track of the skills and talents of their team-members. The more sophisticated systems can help with performance management and even succession planning, as well as e-learning.
Another attendee described actually asking staff what they wanted to do or learn next, and what they hoped for as their careers developed – simple, cheap, very empowering and very effective. Not many employers – or acquirers – take the time or effort to engage with key staff on this personal level, but it has huge benefits for motivation and retention.
After a deal?
Particularly for members of the team who have realised significant sums in an exit, motivation and retention post-deal can be a real challenge. Successful entrepreneurs who have run their own fast-growing businesses don’t want to find themselves regional managers within a much larger and more bureaucratic organisation.
But once the 100-day integration plan is complete, few acquirers have any clear idea what they want their newly-rich team-mates to do. Again, attendees at the lunch who had been through this before encouraged engaging on a personal level: finding out what people want to do next, or what they’re interested in or where they feel they can make a real contribution is one of the most important, and most often overlooked, things an acquirer should focus on during due diligence to avoid losing these valuable resources.