Just Starting Up? Here’s How You Can Attract and Retain Talent Like Outdoorsy Did

Getting a company up and running is no small task! And having to compete with big-name companies to lure talent in the door is equally as difficult. However, we’ve got good news! It can be done, and we’ve got the proof.


Image courtesy of Outdoorsy

RV rental company, Outdoorsy, recently announced that it had recruited new executive leaders from big-name companies around the globe. These new hires will join Outdoorsy to further drive the company’s commitment toward global growth, unlocking international supply and scaling the marketplace’s geographic reach.

“We are excited to have industry veterans join our robust executive leadership team to further the rapid growth Outdoorsy has seen since its creation in 2015,” says Jeff Cavins, CEO and Cofounder of Outdoorsy, in a press release announcing the new leadership team. “Each of these leaders brings tremendous domain knowledge and proven expertise to scale Outdoorsy to the next level.”

For a relatively new company to secure top talent from big brands, we wanted to know how Outdoorsy was able to pull this off. Jen Young, Cofounder of Outdoorsy, joins us to discuss how they were able to secure these in-demand workers and how start-up companies (or any employer, for that matter) can attract and retain top talent from billion-dollar corporations.

HR Daily Advisor: Outdoorsy recently announced the appointment of new executive hires to the global leadership team. Your new executive hires come from big-name brands, like Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Airbnb, and more. We hear a lot about how difficult it is for many employers—let alone a start-up company—to compete with such big names to secure top talent. How were you able to attract these new executives to your company?

Young: Finding candidates who have successfully enjoyed the journey from start-up to profitable organization yearn for the relationships and education of being tied to a mission-driven company. You must identify mental athletes who have an appetite for solving what they do not know and grow stronger in their pursuit of collaborative excellence.

Money isn’t the only factor and will come to those who work with a passion and a purpose. At Outdoorsy, we are bringing diversely different people together in a forum that helps us realize our humanity and strive to be better people. To us, that’s a mission worth fighting for.

HR Daily Advisor: What advice would you offer start-up companies who are looking to recruit and retain talent from big brands?

Young: You must have a story that inspires innovation and a well-thought-out business/head-count plan. You must prioritize recruiting. More importantly, your first key hires are going to be the foundation of your organization’s staffing strategy, so you want to ensure you hire people who are great leaders and who have talent that follows them.

You don’t want to poach or do anything that doesn’t align with integrity, but great bosses are always sought out by great employees who have enjoyed success under their leadership. Once a buzz starts developing around your brand, people with high-profile gigs are likely to take notice.

HR Daily Advisor: As a start-up, what steps did you take to initially recruit talent to your company? What worked and didn’t work for you?

Young: The first step is to start with a recruiter who is customer-focused (e.g., someone who treats every candidate as a potential customer), strategic, experienced, and people-smart. You can’t rely on just posting jobs to attract the talent you need. You need a hunter, but it takes a bit of forethought, especially if you are working on something that has never been done before.

What doesn’t work is going cheap here. Hiring a junior recruiter who has no real appreciation for the brand can ruin yours with the way he or she treats passive candidates.

You also can’t have interview teams that aren’t prepared or aligned. Speed is the name of the game, and a closely aligned, prepared hiring team—one strategically prepped to ask the right questions—can make a huge difference!

HR Daily Advisor: Salary negotiations continue to be the bane of many employers’ existence. What advice would you offer start-up companies that might not have the budget to negotiate a candidate’s request for a higher starting salary?

Young: The quest to find top talent has reached all-time highs. Given the current competitive candidate climate in Austin, Texas, offering competitive salaries are a “must” and should be offered in conjunction with offering challenging work, consistent collaboration, growth and development, rewards and recognition programs, generous PTO, and stock options (skin in the game).

At the end of the day, providing employees with opportunities to be inspired by our value of an innovative spirit and our commitment to being a “Workplace of Choice” will differentiate us as an Employer of Choice.

Additionally, it also depends on what a candidate is seeking. Joining a start-up is going to have its own journey and upside because typically there is significant equity attached to the offer.  Employees wear many hats at a start-up, and the amount of learning can be greater because you are working with less to get more done.

Lower salaries are often taken in order to get into a company at its early stages. Higher salaries are going to be more abundant at companies that have already achieved sustained profitability, but the adventure of building a start-up is lost.

HR Daily Advisor:  On the “Meet the Team” section of your website, you do a great job at showcasing the actual people who work for your company. I see you also include the canine employees; do you allow employees to bring their pets to work? And if so, has this helped attract talent to Outdoorsy?

Young: Finding new ways to get work done can be difficult, but it turns out the best (and honestly way more fun) approach to staying motivated at work might actually be to bring your pet into the office. Having that best friend with four legs around actually decreases stress throughout the day and makes the Outdoorsy office a happier place.

Nearly 50% of employees who were able to bring their pet to work revealed higher levels of overall productivity. Outdoorsy capitalizes on this competitive trend that we believe increases the productivity of the team.

HR Daily Advisor: Do you have any other advice for small employers or start-up companies that may be struggling to recruit top talent? 

Young: Be intentional in carving out an Employer Value Proposition that sets your company culture apart from others. The talent landscape is shifting its status quo for employers just like you. Competition throughout the hiring environment has reached a fever pitch.

Today’s talent has full transparency into what they’re worth and what competitors are offering, and they’re using this power to choose their workplaces carefully. If you can’t deliver what they’re looking for, they have the capability, resources, and flexibility to find an employer that will.

Your company has the opportunity to drive better talent acquisition and employee retention by figuring out what matters most to today’s selective professionals—then using strategic employer branding to make it clear that they’re a top-notch place to work.

Leaders across all industries have uncovered what matters most to today’s talent, as well as the employer brand strategies, which you can integrate to meet a candidate’s personal and professional aspirations.