Why we invest in young talent

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By Guy Levine
on 2/1/13

In this morning’s usual peruse through my latest email newsletters, I see an intriguing title from Real Business Magazine entitled ‘Would you invest in young talent?’ As a digital business, which often tend to be full of ‘young people’ it started my mind ticking.

So firstly, I am CEO and I am thirty three. The oldest person in the business is thirty six, the youngest is twenty one. We have a mixture of levels of education from degree to the entrepreneurial path. In growing the business from myself to over twenty in a few years I have started to think age counts for nothing in this business. Hunger and common sense is what it is about.

Allegedly experience comes with age, but many of the people we interview seem to be living the same year over and over for the past ten years. Their CV might say they have three years’ experience but in reality they have one. And someone can be just as burnt out at twenty three as they can at fifty three.

So the question for us is how can we build up our teams experience as quickly as possible? In reality this takes an investment of time and of money. It also relies on the true quality of the team. I saw a great quote yesterday, although I am unsure of the source. It simply stated ‘don’t just join us, join in.’ That is the new first slide for our induction process by the way.

Developing your experience and gut feel does take time, but it can be accelerated. There are three elements. Teaching, Verifying and Coaching.

Our typical education program starts with a lot of teaching. How we do things round here, our systems and our clients. We run bi-weekly ‘lunch n’ learns’ where team members share their latest knowledge and we attend a lot of conferences!

The verification stage is letting our team work on their own projects, under the supervision of a senior team member. Call it mentorship or call it management. It’s still like teaching you first child to ride a bike and letting go of their saddle for the first time as you run through the park, covering your eyes and hoping they don’t crash into that big, hard, tree!

Coaching is where we try and screw with our teams heads to embed the learning and use their own initiative. What do you suggest? How would you rate your performance? What would need to happen for you to be world class? If you were sat at my desk, what would you do? You get the picture.

And there you have it. We have only invested in young talent and have pretty much had to nurture everyone. It has taken a little money and a lot of time, but I have a team which quite frankly ‘kicks ass.’ They are sparky and up for it. I prefer to look at it another way. Would I invest in grey hair?

I believe my job as CEO involves three tasks. Setting the vision, steering the ship and building my teams confidence. Yes, people come and go, but I would rather have someone who is growing for a year who then moves on, than someone who has been dead for the last five who never gets the hint. Besides, you would be surprised how motivating a strong vision can be.

This article was born out of an Outlook alert telling me I am scheduled to write for our blog today. It is quite rambling and a tab pretentious perhaps, but us kids face real business issues as well, and this is how we deal with them. So whether this gives you an insight into how we do things round here, some inspiration for how you deal with talent or just fun correcting my grammar, thanks for reading and feel free to let me know what you think.