GivingData is self-funded and viable without investors. Their scrappy approach has also encouraged creative methods for getting the best tech talent out there.

How One Bootstrapped Business Competes for the Best Tech Talent

Posted January 4, 2017 by Kristin Hoppe in Hiring and Onboarding
GivingData is self-funded and viable without investors. Their scrappy approach has also encouraged creative methods for getting the best tech talent out there.

As many business owners know, hiring for great tech talent is no walk in the park.

And in Boston, it’s arguably even more difficult than in most states. According to an article published by the Boston Globe in 2016, Massachusetts is ranked as one the most difficult states in the country to hire tech workers, alongside Maryland and Virginia.

Enter Justworks member GivingData, a company founded in 2009 and based in Boston. GivingData designs grants management and enterprise data management solutions for grantmaking organizations. In other words, they develop software that helps philanthropic organizations make better investments in the social sector to make a difference in the world.

And they’ve figured out how to hire great talent as a self-funded company without all the big corporate or VC-backed bells and whistles.

“We’re not VC funded and that’s a point of pride,” said Alfred Gracombe, a founding partner of the company. “What makes me happy is that we’ve built a company that’s viable and self sustaining.”

Read on to hear about how GivingData started, and the most effective techniques they use to acquire talent.

Tips for Getting the Best Tech Talent

GivingData has a more old-school approach to funding their business, but a modern approach when it comes to finding talent. Here are the four biggest things GivingData does to recruit the talent they need for the important service they offer:

Hire Remote Workers

By and far, the ability to hire remote workers puts GivingData in the best position to hire top talent that also fits into their organization’s culture.

They conduct national searches when looking to fill technical and design positions. “That’s core to how we operate,” said Alfred. His technical team, including software developers, designers, and QA, are located in New York, Boston, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

There are multiple reasons why hiring for remote positions gives a strategic advantage:

Attracts a Wider Pool of Talent — GivingData’s options as an employer expand exponentially when they look for talent on a national level. Not only are they able to select a wider pool of applicants, but that also opens up other options — like people who are a great fit for the role but wouldn’t be able to move out of state, or people who have a family and need more flexible work hours. By hiring remote talent, the competition isn’t as fierce as it is in Boston with other startups clamoring for the same positions.

Keeps Other Costs Down - Alfred and his team work either from home or a shared office space in Cambridge. Because most of the team is remote, this helps cut down on typical brick and mortar costs — and that saves money that can be distributed elsewhere (such as compensating employees competitively).

Helps Prioritize Work/Life Balance - Although Google may offer smoothies and haircuts, there is something working on campus doesn’t have: the freedom of remote work. Remote workers enjoy more leisure time with less commuting. This decreases stress and increases time to spend on hobbies and with family, allowing for a better work-life balance. In sum: not having to meet up in a physical space at the same time and place everyday offers an unmatchable perk that will help attract and retain top talent.

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Offer Flexible Work Hours

Whether or not your office is remote, there is something else it can offer: flexible work hours.

Alfred makes sure the employees are able to take advantage of that philosophy. “We allow people to manage their own time and trust that they know what they need to do their jobs,” he said. “People value freedom and flexibility. We don’t micromanage people.”

Flexible work hours make employees more productive, while also helping you tap into a talent market other employers may not be aware of. And according to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20 million workers actively choose part-time work because they prefer the flexibility it offers. Even if you’re hiring for full-time work, the principle still stands — employees strongly value the option of flexibility, trust, and autonomy in their work.

Focus on What Matters

When you’re running a small business, it’s easy to get distracted by administrative burdens like running payroll and finding affordable benefits for team members. Additionally, hiring a remote team to secure top talent also increases the risk of not being compliant with inter-state tax laws.

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Alfred learned this the hard way when he was doing payroll with Quickbooks and handling state tax compliance and benefits administration on his own. “It was a huge headache...out of my own ignorance I actually fell out of compliance,” he said.

And the state of New York ended up telling him he owed a whopping $26,000. “Like, you’re kidding me, I have one employee in NY and you’re telling me I owe $26,000?” said Alfred. “It hadn’t even been a year before I was out of compliance. It would have been a huge setback for my business at the time.”

Alfred was ultimately able to work with a lawyer to manage the situation and reduce the fee to a more appropriate penalty. But the experience jolted him nonetheless. That’s when it hit him: “This is not what I should be doing with my time,” he said. Alfred opted to join Justworks and outsource his HR administration so he wouldn’t have to worry about outrageous fines or other time-consuming tasks.

Regardless of which option you choose — from PEOs to brokers to other HR outsourcing options — free yourself to focus on the parts of your business that matter. Doing so will allow you the time to source and hire the best technical talent around and build the product or service that sets your company apart.

Have a Mission that Makes a Difference

If your company is doing something worthwhile or helping to improve the world in some way, consider that as a strong selling point for talent across the board.

Millennials, especially, are statistically more likely to seek out a job that does something meaningful in the world. 73% of millennials seek meaningful work with a mission they support, and 90% of millennials surveyed said they want to use their skills for good.

Although GivingData is a for-profit company, their clients are foundations who make grants to non-profit organizations working in the social sector. “We work in the non-profit space and that’s something we all appreciate and value,” said Alfred. “We sleep well at night knowing that the work we do goes towards good causes.”

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Given the right tools and approach, small businesses across the board — whether VC-backed or bootstrapped — can find the best tech talent if they take a holistic approach to the people who they’re looking to hire.

“I like that we can compete with larger companies but do it with a smaller group of people,” said Alfred. “I take a lot of satisfaction in employing people and them being happy and doing work they enjoy and feeling fulfilled, not just from a monetary standpoint but from liking the company and liking the people we work for.”