From startup to scale-up: how we doubled our headcount in just one year

Every startup wants to grow fast. But what does that look like in practice? Jennifer Urquhart explains how to scale at pace, while setting your organisation up for success.

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When we founded Enoda in 2021, we had a clear mission statement: sustainable prosperity for everyone. We want to work together to build a world where everyone can prosper in a way that does not continue to deteriorate our planet.

Not only does this speak to the clean energy technology we are delivering, but also, teamwork. Our purpose must resonate with whoever walks through our door.

It’s not always easy to stay focused on your “north star” as teams grow. After all, business plans evolve as you respond to new opportunities. But keeping purpose in mind, I believe, is key to scaling in a way that ensures longevity.

It’s one of the reasons that, at Enoda, we’ve grown headcount by +156% in the last 12 months. So how did we onboard so many new starters not just to the business, but also, our mission?

Stay founder-led

As one of four founders, our strong relationship and clear, shared OKRs for the business has meant that we have been able to make decisions quickly, and invest in the right resource at the right time to progress.

We are committed to keeping Enoda founder-led, and feel this is the best way to ensure that we don’t lose sight of our “north star”.

It means that sometimes we’ve had to make difficult leadership decisions along the way that curtail short-term wins for longer-term success. But it’s the latter you need to keep in mind if you don’t want your startup to burn out.

Go slowly with your core team and early hires

To grow a business quickly and sustainably, I believe a strong, core team is fundamental for this to happen successfully. At Enoda, to build and deliver our technology, we needed to recruit a team of the most extraordinary engineers and scientists.

Not only did they need to be the very best, but they needed to understand our purpose and be willing to work towards our main goal. This environment of achievement and collaboration helps drive our passion to succeed.

The founders were in total agreement that HR was an area that should be invested in early on, in order to create a workplace where employee performance is valued, and staff understood the importance of the work they were delivering.

From a very early stage, we not only looked to build out our technical team, but also our operations team, which had to grow in tandem to achieve our goal. Two of our very early hires were our Head of Talent Acquisition and our Head of Human Resources.

We wanted recruitment to be managed in-house to ensure that we harnessed the wealth of internal technical expertise to drive searches and develop talent pools. We could also fully trust that our recruitment efforts were led by someone who truly understood our business objectives. 

We believe that the strength of our early, core team is why we are able to grow at the pace we do today. To build a winning startup culture, your team needs to be fully engaged, integrated and valued from day one, so that you continue to hire the right people.

Design a recruitment strategy

It was vital for us to establish the foundations of the Recruitment team with someone who understood our challenges, along with appreciating the level of talent we needed to recruit.

It was also important to invest in tools that facilitated high levels of direct candidate engagement. Namely, a fit-for-purpose applicant tracking system (ATS), which allows vacancies to reach a wide audience. Platforms such as LinkedIn Recruiter are a good start, but you should also think about using emerging machine learning or AI recruitment platforms for cold outreach.

Recruitment efforts must be supported by a clear employer brand – can you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?

At Enoda we have always been transparent about our values and expected work ethic. As a business hiring a specially skilled technical team, it works for us to advertise salary bandings and provide sponsorship to ensure we attract the best talent with no geographical limits.

We have hired from overseas for +20% of our technical team, to ensure that we have a diverse candidate pool. These factors have allowed candidates to self-filter and helped Enoda maintain high conversion rates from interview to accepted offers.

You should continually optimise your internal processes as your business grows – we will continue to invest heavily in our own Talent Acquisition team and the tools they need to directly engage with the candidate market.

Don’t forget about employee experience

We have worked very hard to ensure our entire onboarding and probation journey sets the right tone for our business. New employees need to feel welcomed, valued and excited about their new role.

An effective onboarding strategy that is employee-centric can positively impact engagement, productivity, job satisfaction and overall success within the company. It’s therefore important to work on getting this right from the very beginning.

A strong set of company values underpins a company’s entire operations and drives success. At Enoda, we set the framework, and then reviewed and refined it with the whole team.

Now we have employee-designed company values aligned with the beliefs and priorities of our people. This ensures our employees own, and feel accountability for upholding, these values.

As well, it’s important to have an “always-on” approach to employee listening and various channels through which to encourage continuous feedback. This makes it possible for you to identify and address issues in “real time”, hear about “pain points” and work to solve problems, remove inefficiencies and pivot according to changes.

Planning makes the startup grow faster

If you’re able to implement some of these strategies at an early stage, you can build the foundations of an organisation that will have all the tools it needs to achieve its ambitions.

Engage in strategic, long-term planning. Take the time to find a core leadership team who are fully aligned with the mission, and can react quickly to set the business up for success.

With these ingredients fulfilled, there’s no reason your company can’t follow the same path as Enoda for hiring success in 2024.

Jennifer Urquhart
Jennifer Urquhart, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Enoda

As founder and COO at Enoda, Jennifer provides oversight of functions including finance, HR, office support, compliance and governance. Previously she was a member of State Street Bank and Trusts UK Community Support Program; and Secretary to COS Investors Trust. Jennifer holds a degree in Financial Services and has 18 years’ experience working in Edinburgh’s financial sector focusing on compliance and regulatory requirements.

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