What Does It Take to Scale a Startup? An HR Pro Shares Secrets

SmartBiz Loans, founded in 2009, has been awarded several high profile distinctions. The company was chosen one of the Best Places to Work in Fintech for 2018 by American Banker along with making the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. In 2016, SmartBiz was ranked as one of the Best Places to Work in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times.

This startup has enjoyed unprecedented growth and shows no signs of slowing down. But along with growth comes increasing human resources demands.

We recently caught up with Natalie Jocovic, the SmartBiz Director of Talent Acquisition. She is tasked with building a team of talented and passionate individuals who love having fun together while doing the best work of their life. We dug into the details to learn how she is helping to scale the team and instill a supportive and creative company culture.

When Natalie started working at SmartBiz, there were 37 employees. That number has grown to 130 with employees in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. Here’s how she’s keeping all of the balls in the air.

SmartBiz: There are currently a handful of job opportunities at SmartBiz Loans. What is the best way to reach out and find an employee that is not only right for a particular position but fits in with the SmartBiz company culture?

Natalie Jocovic: LinkedIn and Angel List are the best software platforms for the specific type of candidates that will be successful here. Employee referrals have been a fantastic source of excellent candidates as well. In our quest to hire top talent, we offer a $2,500 bonus if an employee referred candidate is hired. Current employees are also entered to win a $500 Amazon gift card simply for referring a friend that we bring in for an interview.

SB: What are unique qualities required to work in a fast-moving start-up atmosphere?

NJ: Since SmartBiz is a start-up, systems and processes are constantly evolving. The ability to be flexible is key. It sounds cliché, but being a team player here is very important – no one works in a vacuum. Whether or not someone can be successful in their role is only one piece of the recruitment puzzle, I also focus on attitude, integrity, and confidence.

SB: How do you define company culture?

NJ: To me, culture is the bond that leads us to our happy place and moves the team forward as a cohesive unit. People are our largest asset, not only for customers and partners, but how they shape the family we have created in the office.

SB: How do you foster the SmartBiz company culture?

NJ: One way is our open office plan that allows for maximum learning and mentorship.  Our space is a place where open communication translates between teams and breeds innovation and adaptability. We want everyone at SmartBiz to have a voice. We strive to create a platform where new hires can speak up and create projects that will elevate SmartBiz as a whole. Although the perks are great, it's really about our people. They are truly what keep us at the top. One aspect that was really appreciated was revamping our 401k program to inspire the team in a simple and efficient way. We raised employee 401k engagement by 80%!

SB: What are strategies you are using to scale during this time of tremendous growth?

NJ: As the company grew it naturally became a more complex organism.  First, I focused on streamlining the hiring process so we could fill crucial roles quickly and easily. Secondly, we created a unique onboarding process to engage new hires from day one. Additionally, we constantly focus on team structure, narrowing individual focus and management training to support the company in new and creative ways.

SB: How do you welcome new employees?

NJ: We set up their work station with the essentials: Macbook, SmartBiz branded mug and water bottle, some candy and a cozy sweatshirt. I introduce them to the team after an office tour including a journey to our well-stocked kitchen were we offer four different types of coffee. New employees enjoy a catered lunch with the team in the kitchen or go out to lunch with their buddy. We may also go on a boba run in the afternoon if the weather is nice.

Are you interested in working with SmartBiz? Visit our LinkedIn page to review open positions.  To learn more about working at SmartBiz, check out this video: SmartBiz Company Culture 2018.  SmartBiz employees share what they like about being a member of the SmartBiz team in the following videos:

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