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5 things I’ve learned in 5 years

Richard Vaughan – MD, Younity

I can hardly believe that it’s been just over five years since the four of us (Tony, Jane, Mark and myself) decided to head out on our own and start an IT recruitment agency. What were we thinking?!

I say that in jest, but seriously, we wanted to create a recruitment company that will make a difference in an industry that we had found to be more about numbers than people.  We wanted to get up in the morning and do good work at a place that really cares about its people, the industry, and the planet. So, we set out to create a company that really lives and breathes it.

It’s been, to say the least, an interesting journey (insert ironic eyebrow lift here). Five years on, Younity has almost 30 staff across two cities. We demonstrated impressive resilience as a team during a global pandemic and became one of Aotearoa’s fastest growing companies. Younity outperformed our wildest dreams.

Reflecting on Younity’s journey over these last five years, I am super proud of how far we’ve come. Along the way I’ve been on a steep learning curve, and I thought I’d share my most valuable business and life lessons since we started this crazy ride.

  1. Clear vision and beliefs

Right from the get-go we set out a list of our values and defined what we wanted to achieve. We formed these as our guiding principles, which outlined our “We Believe” statement:

“We believe in creating meaningful experiences for our people, our partners and our community. We believe in delivering positive experiences, investing in relationships, growing together and giving back and we know that we’re in a better place when our people grow, our partners succeed, and our community thrives.”

We hit the ground running and there were many opportunities that came our way, and many strategic decisions that we had to make. Our defined ‘We Believe’ statement became our compass and the core driver of our business decisions. It also made getting up for work exciting, purposeful, and intriguing. We were always aware of what we were set out to achieve and could see our goals on the horizon as we navigated towards the future.

If you’re starting out, I strongly recommend getting together with your team as early as possible and set up your own vision statement. Be open minded, investigate each idea that comes up and how it could bring success. Take the time to analyse and refine, and make it clear why you’re taking your approach and how you’ll achieve it.

  1. Form a like-minded team.

There’s nothing like working with a bunch of good people. As we began to expand, we realised how important it was to pick team players who shared similar values and goals. Using our mission statement as our guiding light, we were able to select the right players to join our team and fill key positions to move us forward.

With everyone on the same page and sharing a similar ethos, we were able to strengthen team connections and support systems. Our waka sailed forward when all of us worked together to achieve our common goals and we had same view of how to achieve this goal, and of course, we knew why we were doing it. When you get this right you can move mountains – or win World Cups (you beauties Black Ferns!).

  1. Get emotional buy-in

Keep on sharing your ‘why’ with your team. Take your staff on the journey with you and make it their journey too. Involve them, share where you’re at and what challenges may be ahead. Be open, transparent, get feedback from your team and make them feel heard – this is their business as much as yours, and their success is your success.

Success comes when you give your people the opportunity to do their best work ever, reward them well, and give them the opportunity to snag a bit of ownership along the way.

  1. Commit to development and growth.

People are like plants – you can’t just stick them in the ground and expect them to grow. When you nurture a plant, giving it water, light, compost, you’re giving it the right tools to really flourish. That’s what we’ve committed to at Younity. Upskilling and investing in our team’s growth are key elements to our success.

I’ve learnt that frequently checking in with my team and structuring personal development plans boosts our company as a whole and is a massive contributor to our low staff turnover rate. Our team feels supported in their career journey, they know that we care and want to help them to succeed.

It’s also important to encourage staff to speak up and raise ideas. Keeping an open mind, and even being open to passing the baton when appropriate, can take your team in a new direction and increase confidence and job satisfaction. This isn’t always easy and it’s hard to let go and let other people step in, but it’s something that I’ve been getting better at doing. I want my team to gain from their work experience at Younity, and when everyone is gaining – no one is complaining.

  1. Commit to make a positive impact.

I’m not talking about becoming a corporate guru, running around hugging and high fiving everyone every morning. But positivity is contagious. Spreading a bit of joy, giving back, being the change, that’s what we’ve tried to do in our own way here at Younity.

Part of our mission statement is that we strive to give back to the community. It’s so easy for all of us to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and not see how we make a difference. Remind your team and yourself of how your work benefits the wider community. This will fill their emotional cup, give them a sense of purpose, and boost their motivation to get the job done to the highest standard.

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