It’s been a big year for us, here at Switch. Actually, it’s been a big decade. Switch launched in 1998 from humble beginnings in a garage shed, fast-forward to today and we now hire over 40 super talented people and moved into our spacious, shiny new Hunter Street office, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD.
In the last two months alone, we’ve brought on seven exciting new hires:
Switch is experiencing the rate of change that makes start-ups so exciting. Every day is different, the learning curve is almost horizontal, and we’ve honed our employee onboarding process down to a T. It’s the sort of transition that can often take you by surprise - despite knowing exactly what we’re capable of, I’ll still have ‘pinch me’ moments when I discover we’ve beaten competitors that would have once been considered completely out of our league, or that we’re now being invited to speak at major industry events.
As the business founder, the success we’re seeing is exactly what I’d always hoped for; but it also poses a challenge that every leader can face when their company enters an intense growth period: how do you avoid becoming a victim of your own success? How can you scale your once small but perfectly formed business into… well, a large but perfectly formed business? When your reputation was built on never over-promising, focusing on quality work and always seeing projects through to the end… how do you avoid the temptation to run before you can walk? The answers to those questions are different for every business, but here’s a few ways in which we’re approaching them.
Obviously - but easier said than done. Sometimes you’re hiring to resource a project that’s already in motion and might feel that waiting for the right candidate is a luxury you can’t afford. It’s also important to remember that interviews very rarely give you an honest view of the candidate; nerves coupled with the desire to say what they think might impress, can often make it impossible to really gain an understanding of a candidate’s core values. We usually invite candidates to between three to four interviews and, where possible, invite them to meet the team. We’re also lucky that our industry lends itself well to contractors; an arrangement that’s often mutually beneficial. Whatever you do, don’t hire someone you don’t like.
Don’t get me wrong, a shiny office won’t fix unhappy employees or customers; but being proud of where you work can have a huge impact on your work ethic. Perhaps more importantly, having a shabby, poorly lit or messy office is depressing for employees and embarrassing (and sometimes, alarming) for customers. Offering employees a nice place to work, and nice people to work with, sets the right tone for a positive company culture.
Despite only being eight years old, our reputation has been built slowly and quietly. In an industry where the focus is on the next big innovation, it’s easy to put technology before the customer experience. At Switch, we’ve never started a project we didn’t finish. We pride ourselves on helping customers to create experiences that are engaging and innovative but, most importantly, that actually work - at both the front and back ends. Our customers trust us to work tirelessly until we’ve delivered what we set out to do.
We know that it’s these values that have set us apart from our competitors - and that maintaining success is about maintaining these values. In order to do that, we won’t take on a project that we don’t believe we can deliver - and we’ll always see the projects we do take on to the very end (not that ‘the end’ exists in digital, but you get the sentiment).
Rules and processes can too easily become the anchor that can drown a business. Any Freakonomics fan knows that incentives often work in ways you don’t expect; and once the damage to the culture is done, it can be very hard to undo. Instead, we try to focus on keeping communication as transparent as possible. If everyone knows exactly what everyone else is doing, this reinforces the team mentality and encourages an element of self-accountability. At Switch, we have a (very nice) open plan office and we all use the Atlassian stack - a collaboration tool that keeps everyone, including customers, abreast of what they’re doing. This also minimises the need for ‘catch-up’ meetings.
Most importantly, holding onto values is also centred around making sure you have them clearly defined. Our team is diverse, of widely different races, religions and beliefs but a central theme exists within all and that is the drive to do their very best, each and every day so that we make a positive difference for our clients and their customers.