Scott Mathieson and Hayley Roberts Paddle Their Own Canoe at Working In

by David Niu on Mar 18, 2012 11:26:35 PM

Scott Mathieson's first job was in marketing. After six short weeks, he resigned to work in the ski industry. His wife, Hayley Roberts, had her first "job" going door-to-door as a Jehovah Witness. Upon reflection Hayley considered going door-to-door as great sales training for her later job in media sales. Scott jokes that Hayley learned sales from the school of "hard knocks."

Scott and Hayley were working at competing companies in London when they met at an exhibition hall in Hong Kong, and they started dating after returning to London. During his time in London, Scott became increasingly disenchanted with his day job as he saw his friend, who was a builder, possessed a much more flexible schedule.

Then the "ah ha" moment struck Scott Mathieson as he watched a documentary on the wealthiest people in the UK. The one message that resonated with him was when the host asked for advice on how others can become wealthy. The billionaire retorted, "paddle your own canoe." At that moment, Scott realized that he wasn't going to earn real wealth as an employee, and he knew that he had to start his own business.

Coincidentally, Scott was looking forward to returning to New Zealand, and Hayley was also keen to try working there. So they took a two week "vacation" to New Zealand. It was really a sales trip to talk to employers there to see if they'd be interested in advertising in a magazine (that they'd create if the demand was there) that targeted skilled New Zealanders who were interested in returning to work. All the employers jumped on the opportunity to advertise. Upon returning to London, they quit their jobs and started Working In in 1998.

Today, Working In employs 37 people in New Zealand and overseas. Working In provides an online marketplace for employees to meet employers in a destination country. It also enables employers to search globally for employees. They also host more than 10 employment expos around-the-world annually. Working In targets employers in the engineering, mining, and resources industries with typical salaries ranging from $100,000 to $140,000.

Scott and Hayley shared that Working In's three top assets are:

(1) Website - virtual "room" where employers and employees can meet each other.

(2) Brand - after 14 years, Working In is a leading brand in the space with a strong reputation.

(3) Founders - Scott Mathieson and Hayley Roberts have steered and grown the company from idea to a global operation. They are still very actively engaged in the vision and operations of Working In.

After 14 successful years, they relayed the following insights for other entrepreneurs:

*Separate Performance and Compensation Reviews - Scott believes that performance reviews shouldn't be clouded by money. Everyone should be able to talk freely and discuss where they want to go in their career. This provides an opportunity to hold a frank discussion without the pressure of pay looming over their heads. Finally, separating the two also affords time to put a structure in place to get them to that next level in pay.

They hold performance reviews twice per year. Compensation reviews are done once per year, but they don't have a rigid policy around this.

*No More 360s - Working In conducted 360 peer reviews in the past. The staff were skeptical and nervous. The feedback about each other all came back in glowing terms so the company didn't receive much value. This is a problem that Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint attempts to solve with increased education. Because the negative outweighed the positives, they no longer conduct 360 reviews.

*Positive Attitude at All Costs - Hayley shared that they hire for a positive attitude because with a positive attitude they can train skills. But the opposite doesn't work for them. For key positions at the company, Scott would forsake growth and profitability to wait to find the right person for that role. How many of us have hired someone because we desperately needed a role filled even though we knew it may not be the perfect fit?

*First Interview = 20 Minutes - Their first in-person interview is only 20 minutes. That's one of the shortest interviews I've ever heard of. This is related to the positive attitude requirement because in 20 minutes, they quickly ascertain if they click with the person and if the candidate sees the glass half full.

*Require Psychological / Personality Test - This occurs at the second interview. Working In leverages ASSESS as their personality test for candidates. This test gets staff to summarize the requirements of the role and the traits of successful employees in that position. Then the candidate is graded against that.

Scott thinks this isn't as easy to interpret as DISC, but he really likes it for people in sales roles. Hayley agrees that DISC has a wider reach and is more applicable especially when it comes to team dynamics and how to deal with each other.

*Conduct Annual Company Survey - Working In participates in an annual survey conducted by JRA which surveys the company's workforce on 86 points. Questions asked include:

-Do you know your role?

-Would you recommend someone else to work at your company?

-Do you know the strategy of the company?

The respondents then answer on a 1-to-5 point scale. This is all conducted online anonymously, and the survey also requires that 80% of the company must respond. The company receives the results which is similar to a balanced scorecard that highlights areas for concern and improvement. It works so well for Working In that the employees request that they participate yearly.

*Conclusion - This was my first interview with a husband-wife team that ran a company. They complement each other and were finishing each others' sentences during the interview. As expected for a company that is involved in the employment industry, Scott and Hayley provided some great tips for other businesses seeking to grow especially in the screening and hiring process. So entrepreneurs can avoid their mistakes and learn from Scott and Hayleys Working In school of hard knocks.


*Follow @TINYhr on Twitter to get the latest insights and best practices from entrepreneurs as David continues his travels and interviews around-the-world.

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This post was written by David Niu

David is the Founder and CEO of TINYpulse. After being burnt out from his previous company, he decided pack up all of his belongings and go on a careercation with his family. Through that journey, he met with numerous leaders around the world that taught him about work culture, employee engagement, and what it takes to be an inspirational leader.

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