The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Simon Slade.
Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, Affilorama, and co-founder of Smtp2Go. Through these companies, Simon provides education and resources for e-commerce professionals to start their own dropshipping business, build an affiliate marketing business and achieve occupational independence. Simon can be followed on LinkedIn and regularly comments for Forbes, Fortune, SMH and NZ Business.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
As an online seller on TradeMe, New Zealand’s local auction site, I found a lot of fellow sellers asked where I was finding my suppliers. I saw the opportunity to help others jumpstart their online sales gigs and developed the concept for SaleHoo, an online directory of verified wholesale suppliers. SaleHoo’s success helped me and my partner, Mark Ling, launch Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal. From there, we built the parent company, Doubledot Media.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
One surprising experience was related to Affilorama, which started as a paid-only service for $30 per month. After not seeing the results we expected, we changed our pricing structure to include a new free option and a new $70-per-month premium option. Within the first month of implementing our new pricing strategy, our revenue and customer base tripled! The free plan has not negatively impacted our revenue, and our customer base continues to grow. While this outcome was a little surprising, it taught me a lot about attracting customers through pricing.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example of each idea.
Technique 1: Remote employment. When we hire at Doubledot Media, applicants’ geographical location isn’t even a consideration, and we base our decision solely on the candidate’s skill set.
Technique 2: Application instructions. To test the applicants’ attention to detail and scale down our applicant pool, we list five instructions for completing the application. Many overlook ‘attach a CV as a PDF’ and submit their curriculum vitae or resumes as Word documents. Being able to follow instructions is important to any job, so we practice this strategy in all hiring opportunities.
Technique 3: Freelancers and outsourcing. We outsource projects and tasks for which we can’t justify full-time employment because the work might be limited to 5–15 hours a week. These include media relations, copywriting and video creation, for example. Often we hire freelancers by the project but usually switch to an ongoing basis if we have a great experience with the person.
Technique 4: Trial projects. Once you’ve narrowed your search down to one job candidate, I recommend giving the applicant a trial project to complete. The candidate should be paid for his or her time, but if the job isn’t completed to your satisfaction, it’s less costly to sever ties at that point rather than after officially hiring the person and paying him or her to complete your onboarding process.
Technique 5: Use the tech. We use LinkedIn Recruiter to meet and chat with potential staff, even when we don’t necessarily have any openings. This helps us keep our finger on the pulse of the hiring market and also snap up good talent when we find it.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
I would repeat the last technique above — we are always seeking out talented people in the field, even if we aren’t actively hiring or that candidate has full-time employment. You never know when someone’s circumstances will change, so it’s good to build relationships for the future.
Perhaps the greatest way to attract talent is by making your company a great place to work. As a team, work-life balance and fun are some of our greatest values. We are always finding new, innovative ways to keep our team happy and our employees engaged through team outings, group vacations, and even a company wish list.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
As I said, retaining employees is sort of a hiring strategy, too. We make Doubledot Media a fun, caring work environment. I try to be the boss I would like to have, which makes fun essential. For my New Zealand staff, we bond at wine tours, ski trips and on Fridays, we barbecue together. A substantial number of my employees work in the Philippines, so once a year, I fly there to treat them and their families to an all-expenses-paid vacation.
Also, all employees are encouraged to contribute to our company’s wish list. I entertain all suggestions, and together we implement the best ones.
I also recognize telecommuting as a significant contributor to bringing joy to my staff. Of my 35 employees, 24 telecommute, and they acknowledge the freedom to set their own hours as an important factor in their overall job satisfaction.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I might sound like a broken record, but I keep returning to the remote work arrangement. I really feel strongly that allowing employees to telecommute is better for everyone. It creates an environment of trust among the team while also encouraging team members to be self-motivated and to engage with their work when they are most productive, versus keeping to a specific schedule that might not work best for them. I trust my employees to get their work done effectively and I assess performance on output, not hours. I think that most companies would benefit from this model, as it’s been shown time and time again to improve worker satisfaction.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
Steve Jobs said, ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do.’ This advice gave me the courage to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. Three businesses later, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Being my own boss is a significant factor in my love for my job, and I love that my businesses, Affilorama, SaleHoo and Doubledot Media Limited, help others to also become their own bosses through e-commerce pursuits. It is my hope that our companies help others achieve occupational freedom so that our customers, too, love what they do.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
Sam Morgan of Trade Me in New Zealand. Has both built and invested in some pretty large companies, now doing a lot in the philanthropic space which I am interested in learning more about.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!