When Margot Schmorak joined Hostfully as a co-founder, she knew she’d have to build a team. But when the going gets tough, as it often does in business, the people who succeed are the ones that take ownership, bring creativity to the table, and know how to solve problems. In short, Schmorak needed intrapreneurial employees.
Through her experience hiring in her previous role and her growth with Hostfully, Schmorak developed a framework to find intrapreneurial employees and cultivate intrapreneurship. While the framework is in-depth and focuses on understanding a person’s intelligence, not once has Schmorak ever asked where the person went to school.
The intrapreneurial interviewing checklist
When Schmorak walks into an interview, she’s trying to learn three things:
- The candidate’s communication skills
- How quickly they work
- How good they are at problem solving
Throughout the entire interview, Schmorak is paying attention to subtle – and not so subtle – communication skills.
She said she looks at things like:
- How they sound over the phone
- If their emails are professional and cleanly written
- If they sent a thank you note or other follow up
These are not hard rules, but Schmorak said details like this help identify if someone will succeed at Hostfully. At the company, that doesn’t just mean communicating internally – the entire company focuses on vacation rental property owners, so employees need to be able to communicate with them as well.
Speed of work
For Schmorak, speed of work isn’t necessarily about being fast at a task – it’s about aligning with the organization. To that end, the driving question around speed of work is “can they operate at the speed of the business?”
Testing for this is a bit harder, but Schmorak will usually ask about projects the person has completed before to get a sense of their ‘speed’.
“I spend a lot of time in interviews talking about projects they’ve [the candidate] done and what made them feel satisfied and excited,” she said. “I also ask about the timeframe and the impact the projects had.”
She knows that not all companies move at the same pace as Hostfully, so she uses the questions about projects to assess how much this person was able to work at the pace they needed to on top of how fast they worked.
Once Schmorak gets candidates talking about projects they’ve worked on, the next step is to assess if they can learn quickly and solve problems. This is especially crucial for candidates that may not have direct work experience in the job they are applying for.
“If they haven’t done this specific job before, they could probably learn it if they are able to move really fast,” she said. “So sometimes we give people tests – like case studies – that they have to figure out.”
The case studies help them assess specific skills and test problem solving, but there’s still an issue that some candidates may talk themselves up a little bit too much. To negate this, Schmorak uses a framework she calls “who and when”.
The framework is fairly simple: every time someone talks about an experience, ask specifically who was involved and when. Then ask it again. And again. After asking “who and when?” a few times, you can usually assess the candidate’s true participation in the project.
Building an intrapreneurial work environment through vision alignment
Once Schmorak has intrapreneurial employees in the company, her next step is to make sure they have the kind of environment where they can thrive. For her, this means developing a cohesive vision and building a powerful story.
Shmorak said that a vision has to be defined as how you’re making your customers’ lives better. When you define a mission to be focused on user benefit, you can use that as a decision yardstick.
For Hostfully, that mission is to make travel experiences better for the end consumer. And asking if business decisions will lead to that outcome is something Schmorak said is “something we ask ourselves all the time.”
Once you’ve got a clear vision and mission, defined by end-user benefit, Schmorak said the next step is the ensure expectations are equally clear.
“Set clear expectations around timelines so that everybody’s moving as fast as possible,” she said. “We’ve been diligent about using software tools to do that.”
The power of storytelling
With a clear vision and set expectations, the company can move forward to build something great. The next step after that is to keep your storytelling high quality. Business storytelling, said Schmorak, is one of the most important things you can do for your business.
“Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling in how you do business,” Schmorak said. “It doesn’t matter how big your business is, you can be an amazing storyteller. That’s the thing that will get you more customers, build better partnerships, advocate for your business, and inspire your employees.”
Sustaining yourself to empower intrapreneurial employees
It’s one thing to talk about empowering employees, removing obstacles, and cultivating an environment where intrapreneurial people can thrive. It’s another to make sure you are capable of providing those things. When Schmorak looks at her own job as a founder and CEO, she has to give herself the room and energy to do right by her employees.
For Schmorak, that means actively doing less.
“We’re in this culture of being inundated with so much information and we feel the pull and tug of all the needs of different people,” Schmorak said. “Whenever I get overwhelmed, or I feel like there’s so much stuff going on, I look at the one thing I am going to do really well today. And I make sure I do that.”
To her, doing one good thing a day is a blessing. It means that in a year, you accomplish 365 good things (or 250 good things if you take 2 weeks vacation and don’t work weekends). For a business leader, that’s a lot of good things to get done.
Images courtesy Hostfully unless otherwise stated