The following is a guest post from Jason McDonald, Director of StringCan Interactive Paris, StringCan Interactive is a digital strategy and business consulting agency that helps European startups gain access to the US market, with offices in Scottsdale, Arizona and Paris. You can follow StringCan on twitter at @StringCanEU.
Late last year I had 8 mentorship sessions with 8 world-class business leaders ranging from corporate CEOs to startup founders to VC partners and, as you can imagine, I learned a lot. There was one theme that stood out above the dozens of topics discussed that really got me thinking – employees. Regardless if I was speaking to a 50-person startup or a 400K employee corporate giant; hiring, training and retention is a focus of all these successful business leaders. You might be thinking to yourself, “I wish I could have been there for those mentorship sessions”. Don’t worry, I ‘ve got you covered – we recorded them all and you can find the first three-mentorship session at “With a Mentor” – a podcast by the American Chamber of Commerce in France’s NextGen committee.
Rethinking Employees for a Successful Company
1) Everyone needs a mentor, even the CEO
Last year, Forbes magazine called Alain Bénichou “arguably [one of the] most influential businesspeople in [France] today.” So, when I sat down the former CEO of IBM France and the current Global Vice President of Strategy & Solutions at IBM I was doing my best to absorb as much of the mentorship session as possible.
When we discussed his management approach and his philosophy towards employees the point that stood out to me was the active policies in place at IBM to ensure everyone, even the CEO, is being reviewed and mentored. This active approach to feedback, review and openness leads to accountability within the company but moreover it inspires a sense of constant improvement. I love this; creating a company culture where even the CEO is being reviewed and mentored is a company in constant evolution. Luckily, at StringCan, we have always had this in place, it’s a big dose of confirmation to see IBM doing it as well.
2) Success comes from the people around you
Anyone who has had the rollercoaster ride that is a startup knows that one of the hardest aspects for many companies is employee growth. When you go from 4 founders to 8 employees, that 100% increase is exciting and a defining moment in a company’s culture. When you increase your staff by 100% again and then again within the same year, that growth to 32 employees can crack the foundation of a new company.
The big data startup Dataiku has gone from 4 founders to 48 employees in two years so when I sat down with their CEO and Co-Founder Florian Douetteau, employee recruitment was certainly on his mind. He explained that he sees recruitment as one of his most important roles as CEO and it currently takes up most of his time.
When you hear him talk about recruitment, it makes total sense… but, I don’t think we are taking about recruitment enough. When I work with founders or speak to NextGen members we discuss funding, marketing and user growth. I think Florian is right, if we all want to be creating successful businesses we need to make sure recruitment is allotted as much time as it merits.
3) No non-working managers
On the latest episode of “With a Mentor” I had the pleasure to sit down with Christopher Kramme, Head of EMEA Corporate Network at BNP Paribas and Executive Board Member of the American Chamber of Commerce in France. In our mentorship session, Chris and I discussed his management style and his approach to talent retention which is no small job when your team is comprised of more than 50 nationalities.
Chris and I discussed his management style which he describes as an inverted pyramid and a focus on projects-based organization. He sees his role as a manager focused on making sure his team has what they need to succeed, not the other way around. It’s his job as a leader to provide his team with the tools and feedback they need to succeed.
As companies face a shift in employee values and needs, the competition for talent will only increase. Chris is the kind of leader that puts his team first and is highly focused on their growth and happiness.
I can honestly say that since my interviews I have started focusing more on growth, retention and the education of my team. It’s not easy because like any other business owner I have 100s of other responsibilities but employee development has become more important and I hope the mentorship sessions on With a Mentor help you come to the same conclusion.
About the Podcast
Last year, I had the honor of helping start the American Chamber of Commerce’s (AmCham) NextGen committee, which is focused on promoting relationships between startups and AmCham members. A large portion of AmCham members are made up of large multinational companies like IBM, Cisco and BNP Paribas. The goal of NextGen is to help the startups develop relationships with these companies and to allow these companies access to innovative startups. When we launched NextGen, one of the mandates the AmCham Board of Directors gave us was mentorship. They encouraged Benoît Baillet and I as Co-Chairs of NextGen to try and create a way for NextGen members to have access to the many business leaders at AmCham as possible. The podcast was created to allow as many people as possible to have access to world-class mentorship sessions.