Startup Perspectives – Talent Digital

In this Startup Perspectives interview we’re speaking we spoke with Lloyd Stokes, Director of Talent Digital, a recruitment agency specialising in placing candidates in fast growth businesses.  Lloyd views startup land with a different frame of reference than our usual interviewees, as he works with SaaS and Tech firms to build out their talent roadmap.

I often find recruiters get an early insight into market trends because they see an (de)acceleration in hiring before the rest of us. 

Name: Lloyd Stokes
Role: Director
Company: Talent Digital

Tell us in a sentence what Talent Digital does.

We help fast growth SaaS and Technology companies build their Sales and Marketing functions from the ground up.

Tell us about your journey so far, as a business.

We launched 5 years ago as a Digital recruiter working more with Digital brands and on Digital roles. Through relationships and a growing network we started to work more within the startup and scale-up community and really enjoyed working with smaller, younger companies who highly valued true recruitment partnerships. We pivoted 18 months ago to focus exclusively at this marketplace and haven’t looked back.

Despite Brexit and Covid, the rate of new business registrations in the UK is accelerating. Are you seeing a similar rise in the number of startups looking to hire?

In some respects yes and in others no. It really depends on the industry they’re in and who their target market is. Some companies have been able to take advantage by hiring more of the talent they require because they’re more available.

Are you seeing growth in any particular sectors, more than others?

Growth is definitely happening within those sectors that are still fairly new to disruption, for example the Insurance world has been late to the party when it comes to tech advancement and using AI and Machine Learning, but this is changing fast and bringing a lot of growth opportunities.

Startups are unique/ever-changing places to work – does this make it difficult to place the right people?

Yes, the challenges of recruiting in this space are unique, it has taken us time to really appreciate the differences when it comes to recruiting often for founders or on behalf of VC’s. Managing and supporting the clients is often more challenging than managing the candidates, as in many cases they’ve never had to hire and build a Sales or Marketing team. There’s a lot education and often a lot of iteration when it comes to the ideal brief of each role.

What advice would you give to young companies who are looking to attract the best talent?

Be realistic to what your budget will allow you to get, recognise that there are plenty of other companies out there who are looking for the same thing so when it comes to it you need to sell to the candidate as much as they sell back to you.

If you’re hiring is ego driven i.e. why wouldn’t this candidate not drop salary and bend over backwards to join my business, then you will find trouble in this approach. Get your team to talk all the time about your business and share content on why it’s so good to work there.

Have a simple and effective interview process which is locked down before you start, if your interview process is unstructured and disorganised then what does it say for your business? Lastly, find a recruitment partner and build a genuine partnership with them, it will add huge value.

Working in startup land can certainly look glamorous, but we know it has its ups and downs. What advice would you give to candidates who are looking for a role in a startup?

Focus on the company and less on the role, candidates can get fixated on the details of their role but the reality is that if it’s an early stage startup your role will change, be adapted and be added to with often more responsibility than you started with.

You should also ask yourself what your tolerance or attitude is to change/risk and plenty of it, if you need loads of stability and structure (which most people actually do) then a startup which is too young won’t be right for you.

Lastly I would look less at the total investment they’ve received and more at who has invested and who’s on the board, plenty of companies have done a big Series A and failed, strategic support from a board of experienced people who’ve done it before is in my opinion more valuable than how much you raise, both is even better!

Is London still the place to be for innovative businesses?

I think it is still now but there are awesome tech communities in every major city and lots of smaller towns too. With Covid seeing more people leaving London it will be interesting to see how many return and how that also creates innovation hubs in more and more areas of the UK.

You work with a lot of startup founders – what do the successful ones have in common?

From our perspective the most successful ones listen to us, trust our knowledge and are always looking to learn. Another thing which stands out for me is that they make strategic hires and then trust and empower them to do their job, I guess they know their own limitations. Lastly they look to create a board of directors early in their journey and are very selective about who is on that board, the right VC and the right guidance can make all the difference.

Has Covid made running a business more difficult, or is it offering opportunities?

In the short term it was more difficult for sure but I think like a lot of people, I am now excited for the opportunities that are starting to present themselves.

What does 2021 look like for TalentDigital?

Growth in every aspect of our business including continued expansion into working in the US market.

Favourite book or Podcast to recommend?

The Good, the Bad and the Rugby. I’ve read and listened to so much work related content through Covid but actually Rugby is my sporting passion and listening to that allows me to relax and switch off, which has been key!

Thanks, Lloyd!

Keep an eye out for the next interview in our Startup Perspectives series over the coming weeks.