Alexis and I spent the company's first two days writing the employee handbook. We did this before developing our editorial strategy or even locking down an office space.
Writing a mission was the first step and probably the easiest for us: We wanted to put money in people's pockets. Finance is a stressful topic for too many of us, and we knew fixing that should be our sole focus.
Next, we talked about our values. We agreed that we wanted a company of risk-takers -- the media landscape changes about every four seconds, so thinking big and moving quickly is non-negotiable. We wanted to see everything through an empathetic prism and we wanted to be transparent. We'd share our numbers with our team and the world, be direct with feedback, and talk openly and honestly when things weren't going well.
And lastly, we wanted competitive benefits to attract talent and because it was the right thing to do. As someone who's worked at a labor union for many years, I've preached about workplace protections and rights my whole life. Alexis was eight months pregnant at the time, which meant maternity leave was also at the forefront.
Finding the right fit
With only a handful of employees, we ideally wanted someone who could balance bookkeeping and employment management. This was challenging because each role is so different.
Then we found Erin, employee number four. She had experience in both areas.
After a year, we expanded the department and hired another bookkeeper so Erin could focus solely on employee happiness and culture. Together, Erin and Kim, our newest HR hire, work to make sure our company culture stays on track as we continue to grow.
While we're a mission-driven company, they help keep us a values-driven one, as well. In addition to standard HR things, like recruiting and benefits management, Erin and Kim also lead initiatives such as StrengthsFinder, management and team trainings, and volunteer projects.
Glassdoor and HubSpot hosted a webinar called "The ROI of Company Culture" in May 2015. In it, they cited information from Dale Carnegie Training that "companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 percent." Further, these engaged employees can help increase your bottom line by thousands of dollars. Not a bad bonus.
Investing in HR early on was invaluable. And it's a decision I would make again.
Kyle Taylor is the founder and CEO of The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites with 15 million-plus monthly readers. In 2016, the Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder the 32nd fastest-growing private company and the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the United States. You can read his latest article here: "3 Major Startup Trends We're Ignoring -- and How It's Helping Us Grow."