Elena Valentine, Co-Founder and CEO of Skill Scout, discusses the reality of entrepreneurship and founding her own company. Valentine founded the company with her friend and colleague, Abby Cheesman after recognizing deficiencies in the standard job recruitment process. Venturing out on their own, the two sought to match qualified applicants with promising opportunities by showcasing skills and expectations on a multimedia platform.
What is the vision behind Skill Scout?
At its core, Skill Scout is recruitment technology solution that changes how companies attract and hire talent. We saw that the system is inherently broken, and that’s where the need for Skill Scout came in. Job descriptions don’t show what a job is like, résumés don’t depict a candidate’s skills, and companies struggle to differentiate themselves.
We solve those problems by changing the way companies and candidates connect. We do that by transforming job descriptions into behind-the-scenes videos that demystify and give candidates a window into the job and by transforming résumés into hands-on work samples. In our time doing this, companies have seen a lot of success and recognize this as a new way to broaden their talent pool. What we are doing is introducing and envisioning a whole new system of hiring. We call it “experiential hiring.” Our overarching vision is to transform the employment landscape by introducing a new way of doing it.
In building out our team, our goal was to hire a group of diverse women. We wanted to make sure that our team was also going to make a statement for the kind of diversity we think that everyone should have. It’s about building a framework of true inclusion.
Can you explain the challenges of building a business from scratch?
I don’t want to be idiomatic and say “cash is king,” but it’s the truth. Ninety-percent of this is survival. You can have the greatest idea, but if you can’t survive it doesn’t matter. When my colleague and I left our jobs, we didn’t have a cushioned situation. We had to figure out what we would do to drive revenues from day one. Everything about this is going is going to test you, but it’s going to be the hustlers and those who are willing to roll up their sleeves who will be successful.
Another challenge is comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy, and I think in entrepreneurship, it becomes easy to compare yourself to the Uber unicorns of the world. However, as a CEO and founder, I am my truest advisor. We must follow ourselves and do what we believe to be right. The hard part is shutting out all of the other chatter around us.
What you should know before starting your own business?
There is nothing sexy or romantic about this. I think we look to Silicon Valley companies and think that there’s a very linear path, and that is absolutely not the case. There’s nothing romantic about wondering where your next paycheck will come from. That’s just the reality, and that’s why not everyone is an entrepreneur. This will test you beyond anything that you have ever done, and there are a lot of people who will predict that you won’t make it behind your back. For us, a huge part of success is having the ambition and drive to do what we set forth to do no matter what, and that is to help people.
Things to keep in mind along the way:
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your company. You have to come into it with the conviction that you are in this for the long haul. It is not something that you can do in two or three months.
The next point, which is still a challenge for me, is to celebrate your small wins. You should celebrate every successful phone call or day. We often get too caught up in just trying to survive and fight another day that we don’t realize that we’ve just done something great.
Another point is to consistently be humble. I’ve seen a lot of people who have risen to the top and have an ego about themselves. One of our values at Skill Scout is “no ego.” My commitment, regardless of how big or small we get, is to continue to be humble in every interaction. Just because you get big doesn’t mean you should get a big head.
The last point is to be in it for the right reasons. Don’t do this for the glory. That won’t matter if your business can’t survive. If you actually put in the effort and do what you need to do, eventually the glory will come.
Website: skillscout.me | Twitter: @skillscout