Question: How will you do it all?

Answer: You don’t.

When most new businesses launch, the owner is a lone wolf with big ideas. For those in the  fashion and accessories industry, any dreams of glamour are quickly dashed. You’re jammed into a stuffy workspace with any number of distractions. Your days are spent hunched over a laptop, and you lay awake at night agonising over your business plan, trying to design products and content, manage logistics, create websites and … well… find your customers.

You realise pretty quickly that trying to cover all bases on your own just isn’t working. A glance at your schedule shows you’re spending more time on admin instead of creative. You also miss collaborating, and problem solving with support and look to reconnect with industry partners.

This is where fledgling businesses need to get serious about scaling with staff but how do you get the balance right?

We all want an A-team but sometimes the “Rockstar” candidate isn’t the best fit. Not for your budget, and not for your in-house culture. Where you can, invest in people with experience – as you’ll save you time and energy on training, and you’ll have someone to bounce ideas off. You may well find the perfect specialist, but quickly realise you can’t afford them. What now?

How to Hire, Train, And Manage Junior Staff

To scale up, directors often look to hire experienced or ‘rockstar’ designers. It’s a no-brainer, right? Our experience says otherwise. This kind of hiring can seriously backfire.

We follow our own advice too. Here at The New Garde, we hire people based on their certified skills and core values alignment.

Why some companies should not hire ‘rockstars, gurus or specialists’

We can’t speak for everyone but anyone who believes themselves to be a rockstar gives the impression they have nothing left to learn, and no areas to improve on. They’re likely to be expensive, high maintenance and full of relentless self promotion. Need we go on? If you do make this hire, be prepared to hand the reigns over to them, or spend a lot of time trying to undo their learned behaviours.

When you first start out, there’s not much money in the budget to hire for every roll that’s needed. We come across a lot of new businesses outsourcing their marketing or design tasks to interns and uni students. This might work, but keep in mind, the uni student is still learning – and they’re probably hoping to learn from you, and not vice versa.

You can’t blame an intern for poor execution, missed deadlines or your time being spent on trying to instruct them on things you’re not really sure of either.

So costly contracts with rockstars isn’t the solution, and neither is a work experience kid.  Where’s the happy medium?

In the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of engaging industry heavy-weights as contractors to avoid being stuck with someone who might not fit our company values. A lot of our early payroll hires were educated but inexperienced, and they ranged from marketers, product designers and graphic designers.

I was also learning as we were growing, and the business could afford to be agile in processes and direction. I had a fashion design and visual merchandising management background, but I hadn’t really run a big business on my own and didn’t have funding. It was really all of us trying to figure everything out and making our own mistakes.

Sure, we made mistakes by hiring inexperienced people early on, but we learned and grew from them. Eventually we reached a point where hiring more experienced people was necessary, and we had a little more bandwidth to do so. Decision time: did we want to hire managers from outside or do we want to train up our junior staff? Can we do both?

We’ve been pretty smart in the way that we’ve approached our own growth. I attended conferences, networked and spoke to many people that had been in my position before to learn about their experiences before we make our own judgment calls.

Why hiring from corporate backgrounds didn’t work well for The New Garde in the beginning

Hiring someone from a big company is another false no-brainer. In my experience, these are the people who don’t last very long! When I think back on making those hires, I realise that I had an inkling that they didn’t quite fit with our culture, or quite within our budget, but threw caution to the wind. You’ve got to take risks, right?

Well, those risks failed – and that’s okay. I think the main reason for that is, their expectations are different to what we’re required to do here. They’re trained to work and think in a certain way. Our operation is really, really fast paced and pretty intense. We roll up our sleeves and we get the job done – and we like it like that. If people come in thinking this is a cushy job, they have another thing coming.

We are non-stop. We work two years in advance, across three seasons, and at any time, have 15 or more different brands who are engaged with on-shore and off-shore manufacturing plus running product development and marketing from the same office. It sounds like a vertical mess, but it’s a truly collaborative working environment. Experienced hires who worked in departments, or silo-type structures, seem to find it hard to adjust to our particular brand of organised chaos.

Advice for entry level applicants without experience on how to get your first gig

When looking for candidates, rather than looking for experience and a bragable track record, I look for ways an aspiring designer or marketer has taken ownership in a previous role or project, and how they stay accountable for what they’re working on.

Your resume might be curated within an inch of its life, but what are your core values? What makes you tick? How are you pushing yourself to learn and progress? What have you done that shows accountability and self-improvement? If you have answers for these questions, that’s a great starting point.

In an interview situation, what we really want to know is whether you actually care about clients’ business and their customers? We want to know how your skills will support our existing team.

Advice for managers on how to handle new hires in their first two weeks

If you’re a business looking to hire someone inexperienced, we suggest you start them out on a trial with a project and deadline. Again, we follow our own advice here. This is exactly what we do with our interns. We set achievable tasks that can be applied to their career growth and forecast for our clients if this person might be suitable for a junior position.

What juniors should know today that will help them understand an employers needs

Get off your devices and talk in person with people. Visit a product based business and talk to the sales person. Assess how things could be done better in real life before imagining solutions in the digital world. If you want to work in fashion, it could be as simple as visiting stores, trying on clothes/ shoes / accessories and understanding the pricing model. Think about what goes into that one item. Imagine how you as a marketer would promote it and understand what kind of customer they are targeting. If you’re in graphic design, think about what kind of content would be produced to promote the item across digital and print formats.

Looking for a career in fashion?

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Tired of being a lone wolf?

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