Roeland has launched his company with his co-founder in 2018 and they are currently a team of 23. It has been an exciting growth journey so far! As their growth continues, HR challenges obviously arise.
"NS Go and Vaigo are two brands of the same company", Roeland explains, "we offer a mobility platform for big corporations, that makes hybrid work and flexible commuting a lot easier for their employees. The company has moved headquarters from Brussels to Breda, in order to better serve both the Belgian and the Dutch market.
The ever-changing role of the founder
Reflecting on how his own role has changed, Roeland realises that he first did everything himself: sales, marketing, project management, accounting,…. After a first investment round, they had the required budget to hire 2 software engineers. Once their mobility platform was up and running, new hiring needs popped up: they needed a project manager, a sales person to bring in new clients, customer service agents to serve existing clients and do trouble-shooting.
But what is the trigger exactly to delegate a part of your responsibilities as a founder? How long do you continue as jack-of-all-trades and what is the right time to delegate? According to Roeland, "if a recurring task takes more than a day per week, it's very hard to keep doing it yourself, as you will lose yourself in operational work instead of focusing on the company growth and the bigger picture. So in that case, it’s time to delegate the task."
It's recruitment time ... is it?
Just like other scale-ups, NS Go/Vaigo has a clear growth plan, but the speed at which a company recruits doesn’t only depend on workload but often on revenue too. Even if you feel that you need to delegate to manage your own workload or the workload of your team, there is always this moment of doubt: has the right time come yet to take the next employee on board? Do we have enough revenue to hire someone for a permanent position?
Roeland confirms that they always aim to hit certain revenue goals before doing the next hires. However, this implies that people may already be under a lot pressure, before they start a new recruitment process.
"Recruitment takes time and resource, especially for those hard to find profiles like engineers or other employees with specific skills. So we rely on the support of a recruitment agency to help us in speeding up the recruitment and using their network. But this comes with a cost, so it should be balanced."
When is it time to hire an internal recruiter? Roeland discussed this topic with fellow entrepreneurs, who shared that it's best to hire an internal recruiter as from 10 recruitments per year. However, according to his own calculations, the cost of 3 high level recruitments through an external agency may already equal the cost of a full-time in-house recruiter.
Roeland's HR wish list
Next to the desire to hire an in-house recruiter and to lower the cost of external recruitment agencies, there are a few other HR challenges that Roeland wants to tackle.
After 4 years of organic growth, Roeland feels the need (and maybe pressure) to structure processes for the sake of clarity in the team.
It's true that in a scale-up, it can become difficult at times to understand what the different roles and responsibilities of all employees are, as these are in constant motion.
Roeland states: "to give people a clear understanding of what is expected from them, we work with OKR's (Objectives & Key Results) at the team level. It works really well, and it provides clear guidance on our objectives for the year and for each quarter."
"The next step is to translate objectives to the level of the individuals and do mid-year reviews to discuss personal progress. We already have an HR-tool to support this process (Personio), but we only use a part of its potential" Roeland admits.
Furthermore, he sees a great opportunity in formalizing the internal rituals, like team meetings, demo days,... that all lead to the creation of a unique company culture.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
A number of culture sessions were organized within the company to listen to what the employees really want and need. At one of these sessions the team expressed the need for more clarity and guidelines in the highly autonomous environment of NS Go/Vaigo. To achieve this, several working groups have been created to define and implement solutions.
The company has 3 key values (efficiency, empathy and initiative) which they want to see reflected in all HR processes. The management team invests time in bringing the values alive and in translating them into day-to-day practices. On top of the 3 explicit company values, there may be a fourth, more implicit value that characterizes their scale-up. "Autonomy is not a value we explicitly formulated, but it is overly present in the way they work", Roeland states.
Growing a company and team, clearly brings along some challenges and learnings, but Roeland loves every bit of it. 'I am very much aware that this is an exciting journey, and it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I also tell myself to enjoy the ride, even if we have a lot on our plate", he concludes.