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In this podcast episode, the CEO of PLEASE, Afonso Veneiro, shares three hiring challenges his company faced. The first challenge was hiring an engineer who knew everything, which resulted in slower project progress and strained relationships with suppliers. The second challenge was hiring salespeople for a new market who were not local, which affected their ability to sell effectively. The third challenge was not managing expectations with a new hire who wanted to lead a team but was only given sales responsibilities. Overall, the company learned the importance of hiring the right fit for specific roles and adapting to local market preferences. Hello, welcome to the podcast of Pirate Recruitment Tailors. I'm Inga, founder and CEO of Jabralife. We are building artificial intelligence for outbound recruitment. And today my guest is Afonso Veneiro, co-founder and CEO of PLEASE. Afonso, could you please introduce yourself and your company? So hello, thanks a lot for the opportunity to be here. I'm the CEO and co-founder of PLEASE. Along with this, I've also been involved in other projects like PowerDots, Import Trust, CleanUp, Volute. All of them based out of Portugal, but with a global expansion. And so really happy to talk about some of the hiring challenges that we have. Great, so thank you for your time and for participating. And so you mentioned you have three failures in your mind to share with us. Which problem would you like to start with? As you prefer. We can start with one. Well, the first one I did actually during my stay at PowerDots. Basically we were looking for someone to lead the engineering department or to launch it. We didn't have it at the time. And we had basically two options in mind. So we could hire someone more generalist, more like project manager. Or going to an engineer, someone who really knows about the construction. And we decided to go to the second one. And our gut feeling told us it's going to be really important for us in terms of knowledge. The truth is, one month later we realized we've made a mistake. Why? Because basically our project started to be more expensive. It's an engineer in terms of knowledge. So he wanted to do everything right. So our project went slower also because we were trying to comply with everything. And then also the suppliers started not calling us. Because basically we were shrinking their margins with the engineers that knew everything. Okay, so you started noticing this already in the first month? Yeah, it was like, you know when you do a mistake and you know it's like one minute after? So the moment he says hello, we're like, okay, this hello is not our culture. So it was really fast to understand it. So what were the steps you took after you realized that? Yeah, so first of all we tried to understand if this was really a mistake. Or if it's just like a profile that we needed to have but we were not used to it. And so maybe this was something that we needed also from our side. To understand that we really need this kind of people. That we really needed our projects to go slower. So we challenged ourselves in this but we understood that was not the case. And then the second thing was to help him adapting to our culture. But he really wanted to do construction works. So then we helped him finding an opportunity more adapted to what he really wanted to do and his passion. Okay, so then you hired an engineering manager. Yeah, then we hired a project manager that was leading the engineers. And we had the engineers outsourced. So I think it's, well, you still, actually because you realized it pretty fast. And you reacted pretty fast, okay. Yeah. It's not always so easy. Usually you just try to, you know, maybe to give some more time. And to see if maybe this will work or something. So, yeah. It's really good to, yes, to realize and to act very fast. And to kill that and fire from the scratch. And, yeah. And what other situations you had? So another one was when we were launching a new market. Basically we were launching our first market and first international process. And so we decided that we wanted to have a team of two sales people in this market. And since this was the first time we were doing this, we really decided that we needed to have people within the industry that were used to this kind of client. That understood our product. That had more than two or three years at least in sales. That could then become managers. So we had like tons of requirements for this. And so basically we had to interview like 200 people to this role. Just for sales, you know. But since it was a new market, we said, hey, let's interview as much people as possible. So we had like 200 prospects. And for like four or five months we interviewed everyone. They went through the entire process. And we finally ended up hiring one person to this role. And then this person gave us a referral to another person. And we had a team. Okay. And they were both really strong profiles. I went there to help them launching the market, everything. But then like one month passed. Second month. Third month. And we didn't have sales. And so I was like, what's happening, right? We were always trying new pitches, new ways of reaching the clients, new channels. But anything was happening. And so I started to basically talk with founders, with sales leads in the country. And no one was helping me. Basically, they said, but you are doing everything right. And then there is this guy that asked me, are these guys local? I said, what do you mean like local? And he said, like, have they been born here? Are they local since ever? I said, no, no, they are not local. And he said, okay, here is why. Here we only accept local people. Wow. Yeah. And so it's a lesson or a learning. You need to hire local people in some markets. And I was shocked about this. I didn't know in Portugal it's not that way. I wish there would be like a list of the things you have to do in order to get your entry into the market. You know, the launch garden by doing, basically. Because it's like a very, it just affects you, either you know or not. Yeah. But these people were speaking Spanish. It's just that they were not living and being locally. Yeah, they were not Spanish. But they speak Spanish. But they have a different accent. Okay. And so Spanish people are really local, native. And so for them it was really, really impossible to sell, basically, just because of this. Yeah. I think it's because, you know, it's a very different country. So they prefer, you know, to have everything locally. And that's just so. Okay. And how did you react? Did you try or did you just hire other people or you tried something to do that? So at least we always have the mindset of like growing before hiring. Meaning that we prefer to find, before firing, sorry. So we always have this mindset of helping people adapting to new things. And we have two different people, right? And one decided to leave because only wanted to sell. And the second one we tried to adapt internally to other roles. More operational, more in account management. So to accommodate also this person. And this is how we managed to do this. And then now we have a team of local people, basically. Okay. But this is very nice that you can find other responsibilities for people. And you see that's not a fact, you know, in that particular role. What do you think about Portugal market? Is it also the market, you know, where people prefer to buy locally from local people? Portugal is more open than Spain in this thing. Of course, it depends a bit in terms of industries. So there are some industries that you need to be local. Like in the food tech space, for example. Because most of the restaurant owners are not fully comfortable with speaking in English or other language. But they don't care like if you are Portuguese or not. They care if you talk Portuguese or not. Or if you speak Portuguese in this case. But in other industries, actually, we prefer like international people. So, for example, if we are doing something in HR, I feel much more comfortable with having a company that is international and can speak English with me rather than someone who is just Portuguese. So we actually have maybe the opposite in Portugal in some areas. Okay. And why is that? Why would you prefer to talk to an international company and not a local one? Because you are hiring internationally and you need more experience in that? Or there are some other reasons? At least for me, it's two things. So the first one is because international people bring international mindset, right? And so when you are talking with people that are from abroad, you have also the chance to learn about what they are doing in other geographies. And the second one is because you make sure that the solutions were tested by more people. If you have a Portuguese solution, it means that this was tested by Portuguese companies. But Portugal is a small market, right? When you are talking with international companies, you make sure that companies across different countries, across different cultures have already tried it. Okay. That really makes sense. And in terms of like Portugal to be more open, do you think it's because it's a small country and only bigger countries can afford to buy locally? Or what are your thoughts on that? That's a hard one. I believe that Portuguese people realize that we can't do things alone, right? So we are a really nice place to live. We have really good talent. But the truth is we are a small country, right? And we don't produce many things internally. So this means we depend a lot on international. And so we need to be open, you know, since day one. Yeah, yeah. I totally agree. Plus it's like if you are a startup, it's all about working internationally, not only locally, right? Because otherwise you won't be able to scale. Okay, great. And the third? Oh, the third one. The third one was in another company in the car sales space. And basically here we were hiring someone to lead our or to launch our business development team. Actually, the first person we are going to hire full time just to sell. And we were looking for someone that would be able to do sales, but then also to lead the team, right? And here we've made two mistakes. So the first one was we didn't manage expectations. So we talked with this guy directly about leading the team. And so when he joined, he was like, okay, I'm doing sales for one or two months, but then I want to have a team. And this simply didn't happen. And the second mistake was also from our side of not embracing progression. So basically we gave a role to someone before knowing if the person was able or not to do this and without proving himself in this case. And so from there onwards, right now, I don't promise anything to anyone during interviews. I say, hey, maybe there is a progression, but it will depend on your performance. And this makes people much more motivated and also manage expectations. Yeah, and you feel that responsibility, right? That it's not the company that has to do everything. It's both sides responsible for that. Okay. And so what was the situation like? Was the person much happy and wanted people to be comfortable watching you? Or you just thought that the results were not as good as you expected? I think that, to be honest, the person basically reacted a bit better than what I would do in his position. So basically, he simply got comfortable with being a sales. Then we hired another person for sales that was twice. He was overselling compared to the other one. He was a really, really nice guy, the second one. And the second one started to lead the first one. And so the first one allowed this to happen, but started to be demotivated. And so it was always around 70 to 80% of the target, never reached the target. He was comfortable and he said, I'm going to give up. And eventually, we had a conversation with him and he left the company and joined another one. Because we didn't want to confuse a lot of people here. But the problem came from the first call that we had about expectations. Because if we said, hey, you need to prove yourself in sales, I'm sure he would have proven himself in sales. And then he could be a really great team leader. Yeah, it's very important to realize, you know, and especially in the very beginning. Yeah, you can find a way, but in the very beginning, both company and people need to feel the achievement. And that both of the sides are happy about that. How long did it take for you to realize and hire another person? Four to five months for us to really understand. Because also, since this was the first person, and we had targets. But we didn't know if the targets were achievable or not. So it took a bit longer to really understand this. And then when the second joined, we were like, okay, our targets actually were low. We can increase the targets. And then he stayed with us for one year and a half, more or less. So he stayed for some time, yeah. But never made his way up as he desired to. Yeah, I think it's logical, you know, to take the situation and to go along with what's happening. But personally, sometimes it's just not comfortable, you know. And it's pretty difficult to stay in this situation. But in a year and a half, it's pretty impressive. I don't think I ever felt that way. I admire a lot this guy, you know. Like one year and a half for me, in a position that I'm just comfortable. I don't know one week is enough for me. Yeah, so it's interesting. But yeah, it's sad that it still didn't work, you know. And so in general, having, I believe, not only a failure, but also a success story. What would be your main suggestion or advice for other designers, founders, when they start recruiting? So, at least for me, there is one thing. Well, we do all these challenges in hiring now. What I think is that basically in hiring, you have four stages. And you really need to be careful in all the four stages. So the first one is, you really need to understand who you want to hire, which profile you want to hire. And be strict on this. And not only with your gut feeling, what you see in the company, but talk with people. So we were hiring, for example, someone for people, like a people generalist. My gut feeling was, we need someone who can do everything. Then I started to talk with people in HR departments. And they said, hey, what you need is someone junior, just to do hiring, and super specific to do this. And we've done that, and actually it was a success. So the first thing is super important. The second one is the hiring, like the interview process and everything. Make sure the process is there. So the standard process that we have, and for certain roles we adapt, is we have three interviews. One is like 15 to 20 minutes with the HR, just to explain the role, manage expectations, understand salary and everything. Then the second one is with someone from the team. The third one is with the manager. And the fourth one we can do, depending on how senior it's going to be, but it's more like a cultural fit. And it's typically something that I do. It's like a 15 minute conversation, just to make sure that the cultural fit is there. But we are really strict with the process. That's nice. I really admire how many people have it. Not only the content is from the HR sector, but I believe it's super important. I know that it's like you need to be very active and make the decisions fast, because there's a huge competition in the talent market. But on the other hand, it's super important to get a person with a really matching company on board. So yeah, I'm very happy that the startups are doing that. Do you do any tasks or only conversations? No, we have a business case adapted to each. So for example, if it's for sales, you do a role play. If it's for account management, you have a business case. If it's for finance, you have to build a financial model. So you always have something to show not only the hard skills, but how people will structure like a challenge. And also for people to check what kind of tasks will be given at the company, right? So to see closer about the job opportunities they are thinking of. Okay, so hiring and then? Then we have the third one that is onboarding. And this is like I would say that for me, the phase where I failed the most in onboarding. Because you are doing things so fast that you have someone and you say, hey, the company is this, we do this, you are going to do this. And you do like half a day onboarding and just stupid. Now we have like two or three weeks onboarding, where people basically onboarding is at the beginning, they explain everything and then you do shadowing. But people start working from the third day in the company, but they are still in onboarding process. And the fourth one, and this is something we just started one month ago, is growth. So hiring is not done when someone is onboarding. Hiring is like the process of picking up someone that can grow with the company. And so we also make sure that for each person we can have like a growth path that we discuss with the person. And we have all the development plans with each one. And we put this within hiring because we want the person who is interviewing also to start thinking about the growth and if this person can make sense for the company not only for the short term but also for the long term. Okay, that's very interesting. Not many companies do that. And do you do this from the very beginning when people just join the company or after a year or some other time? We have one thing that's called the NPR, that is the monthly performance review. And so everyone with the manager has a monthly meeting about like feedback, areas where they should grow, potential areas where they could grow within the company, manage expectations about the other rules. So we make sure that everyone every month has at least 45 minutes with the manager to really understand the rules in the company, to understand how they can grow, and also for us to understand the motivation and how the person is relating with the company. Okay, just to clarify. Okay, so thank you so much Alfonso for your time and sharing your story. Thank you. And thank you to all the listeners. For more podcasts, please visit our library. Thank you.

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