HR interview with Maura Nachtergaele

Your long-term strategy defines your first hire

Maura Nachtergaele is one of the 3 founders of Payflip, a start-up on the crossroads of HR and legal. They help SMEs to take on an innovative approach in their compensation strategy. In short, Payflip aims to be a kind of Compensation & Benefits manager for SMEs.

The organization has shifted from a consulting firm to a SaaS model and this required a bold HR decision early on in their growth journey.

It’s tempting to hire a clone of yourself

"Payflip was founded on the 7th of May 2020. But we started pitching the idea of smart compensation with SMEs already in September 2019."

Payflip has hired their first employee in January 2021. "I really wanted to hire a legal expert as a first employee", Maura confesses, "I took up a lot of legal consulting work and wanted to delegate some of my work. But we decided to invest our first-earned money in a software developer instead."
So, as from the start, the long-term perspective was the most important one. As they decided to build a SaaS company instead of a Consulting company, this needed to be reflected in their hiring plan. It was tough for Maura, who was the sole consultant working for Payflip, but she could count on the support and encouragement of the other two founders. In the meantime, much of the initial legal consulting work, is taken over by the software.

Nobody tells the story like the founder

Maura is aware of her changing role as co-founder and CEO of Payflip. "I am currently a legal consultant, doing also sales, HR, finance and strategy. I started focusing on business development to explore partnerships with social secretariats, HR freelancers and accountants. I've always liked it all, and I feel that I gained in maturity by doing it all. It might be a strange thing to say at the age of 29, but I feel that I'm in the right place."

Growing comes with a growing staff as well. In the meantime, Payflip counts 4 employees and Maura is busy hiring another 6 people. Besides software development and customer success, they intend to hire in sales. This will also help to take some work off Maura's shoulders. Maura agrees: "I will continue doing business development and managing large accounts, but in September, I want to delegate outbound sales."      

Maura is convinced that sales needs to be done by the founders at first, as nobody tells the Payflip story the way they do. However, after the first period in which founders were able to set out a sales strategy, it’s up to team members to test and refine that strategy to make sales a scalable department within the organization.

At Payflip, all salaries are out in the open 

Maura admits: "Honestly, I am more of a ‘hard HR’ person. Therefore HR at Payflip grew organically, with our compensations policy as a starting point."

The salary policy of Payflip is completely transparent. Everyone knows their colleagues' salaries and there is a benchmark based on skills. A clear framework displays which salary is aligned with a specific skill set and level. Based on this, Payflip has built a performance review process aligned with the framework. So, the starting point was the compensation strategy, but very quickly other HR processes were built around it.

Every new joiner at Payflip receives a communication to understand why they are in a certain pay level. On top of that, they receive a development roadmap as from the very start of their assignment.

Company values on the website and in practice

Although Payflip only engaged a first employee 18 months ago, Payflip is already quite structured in terms of HR processes. Next to the processes, they also pay attention to the company values. On their website, 3 cores values set the tone. Maura explains how these values are put in practice.

"Transparency is serious business at Payflip. We make all the information available to all employees, also about sensitive topics and decisions." It's not always easy to share everything, but literally everything is out in the open for the team, going from discussions between founders, information on the status of our capital raising campaign, ...

The second, eagerness to learn, is reflected in the monthly community day where all employees work on something else than ‘business as usual’. Maura explains: "It's not a free ride: at the end of the community day, all employees share their output." This output is considered to be 'the seeds' planted by employees for further innovation at Payflip.      

The third value is ownership. In Maura's words: "We encourage each other to be critical towards our own processes and way of working. As a young start-up, you cannot claim that you’re already “there”. Learning to formulate constructive and clear feedback is key for us. It’s also critical that the person formulating the feedback comes up with a plan to remediate the problems that were set out.”       

Recruitment through network ... and cold outreach

The main HR challenge encountered by Payflip is recruitment. Maura states: "Being a start-up is nice, but it's hard to attract top talent without a well-known name or 7-digit funding." Founders need to invest in establishing relationships with potential candidates. At Payflip, the founders mainly trust their own network, post on LinkedIn and do cold outreach.

Payflip uses scripts for the selection process, with a screening interview, technical interview and behavioral interview. The composition of interviewers is flexible and switches in function of the vacancy.

Maura explains: "I've already done more cold outreach to potential candidates than to clients. We have the luxury not having to do this for clients, but for candidates, we do."