From $150 to a global leader in custom made sportswear

8 January 2017
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Mick Spencer on hiring the right team

Founder and CEO of ONTHEGO, Mick Spencer, is proof that a crucial ingredient to growing a successful company is having the right team by your side.

Made up of dreamers, doers and people whose ideas are never too big or small, ONTHEGO aims to give everyone the opportunity to live a healthy and active life.

Mick Spencer founded ONTHEGO in 2011 at age 21. He started the business with $150 in his bank account – he spent $142 to register the business name and the remaining $8 on a cup of coffee for his first client.

These humble beginnings have led ONTHEGO to become one of Australia’s fastest growing sports apparel brands. Mick now employs 11 staff, working with a factory team of 300 and services more than 4,500 customers in 15 countries across the world.

He has been lucky enough to speak alongside his idol Richard Branson on a conference panel, and recently propelled ONTHEGO into the national spotlight when he appeared on Channel Ten’s ‘The Shark Tank’, securing the biggest deal ever achieved on the show.

Kitting out some of Australia’s biggest health brands, such as Anytime Fitness, Fitbit, and IRONMAN, ONTHEGO is set to experience significant growth in the coming years.

At the heart of his business is his team, the people whose passion and expertise provide structure to the self-confessed big picture leader. Mick’s team brings his picture firmly into focus.

“A company is not about its founder. The key thing I’ve taken away from my growth story is that a successful company is about a team working together towards a united vision.”

While his is a story of success, like many other start-ups, Mick has faced challenges in getting ONTHEGO off the ground.

Expect growth to be one of your biggest challenges

“Capital was a big issue. We didn’t have a marketing budget to build awareness of the brand, and not having the money to hire the right people to help grow the business in the early days was challenging.”

"To keep the business moving in the right direction we capitalised on every possible opportunity. I live by the idea of making ‘every day matter’ and this ensures I am working hard day in and day out to provide the best service to our customers,” Mick said

Over the past 12 months, ONTHEGO has experienced a high growth phase. During this time, Mick found that it’s been essential to have the right staff around him.

“In the early days, people were with us because they wanted to be there. But as we’ve grown, we’ve had to bring in key people to establish strong foundations for the business and help us expand.”

When hiring these key people, Mick was first and foremost looking for candidates who would fit ONTHEGO’s culture.

Decide if someone will be the right fit for your business

Mick says having an impressive resume with a long list of experience and skills isn’t the main thing he looks for when recruiting new staff. He recommends hiring staff who have a genuine interest in your business and passion and vision for your cause.

“I want people with a good attitude and who have the speed to keep up with me. I’m constantly on the go and I want people who can work in this environment and are adaptable,” Mick said.

“Let the candidate prove the value they bring to you – let them justify why they’re the right person for the job. Look for people with transferable skills and experience, particularly those who have worked in fast growing companies in the past.

“Their experience doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your industry, but someone who knows the tricks of the trade to grow your business, and fast, is ideal.”

Approach recruitment a little differently

Mick’s approach to hiring staff is unique in that he doesn’t always use traditional paid recruitment methods.

While he acknowledges that traditional recruitment is still effective for some roles, Mick usually draws on his networks to bring people into the business. Working with his partners, investors and stakeholders, Mick explains who he’s looking for and they almost always suggest a number of suitable candidates. If that fails, he turns to social networking.

“I believe the power of social networking is changing the world of recruitment. I work on the basis that if people want to be on the bus with us, and are the right fit, then we can find them a seat,” Mick said.

“I find that by sharing the ONTHEGO story people are interested in and attracted to the business. I’ve built a large network on LinkedIn and use this, as well as Facebook, to advertise positions and source referrals. It’s a low to no cost method that I’ve had great success with.”

Figure out your weaknesses and work to your strengths

“We all have areas where we excel and areas where we can improve - figure out early on where your strengths lie and don’t waste time on your weakness. Hire people to fill the gaps which allows you to devote more time and energy to the work where you provide the most value,” said Mick.

Investing in yourself is also important so you can continue to grow as a leader. Mick recommends surrounding yourself with people who are much smarter than you. Not only will they motivate you to be better, but it is also an opportunity to learn the habits and skills of people you aspire to be.

“Finally, put your words into action, make your actions speak louder than your words and be a leader that gets the job done. Work with your staff and be approachable so they know they can come to you and bring you new ideas.”

What’s the take out?

Speaking with Mick, there are three key things which employers should know:

  • The right employee for your business may not always be the most experienced candidate in the field. Look for genuine passion, a good attitude and most importantly, someone who fits your company culture.
  • Look at creative recruitment methods – paid recruitment isn’t always where you’ll find the best fit for your business so be open to other avenues of hiring staff such as social networking.
  • Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are and work to your strengths. Don’t waste time on your weaknesses, instead hire people to fill these roles.

If you’re an employer looking for staff, your local jobactive provider can help you find job ready candidates at no cost to you. Find your jobactive provider at jobactive.gov.au