MYHR takes the “I” out of hiring and firing – Jason Ennor

Most entrepreneurs have had to get down and dirty with hiring and firing. Do they like doing it? Not especially. Jason Ennor and Sean O’Brien, entrepreneurs themselves, built a business around helping you manage your employees. It’s like having a dedicated human resources department, except that instead of being at the end of the hall in a dark office, it’s on your own computer, and accessible at any time of the day. (Or night)

Jason and Sean funded the build of MYHR themselves up to the pilot phase. That involved many hours of work after they finishedtheir jobs, and personal injections of capital.

“On completion of the pilot, in which we trialled four businesses, we were offered investment from a bunch of people, which we found very surprising but encouraging. We didn’t take all the money on offer,” said Jason, “instead selecting a few shareholders based on their specific skills and networks that we didn’t have. We used this seed capital to fund the launch.”

The actual development of the MYHR web-app was initially outsourced. “Sean and I had the idea and were able to build the concept, the work-flows, and build static wireframes. So it was a very complete concept, we knew what we wanted and we knew how it was all going to fit together. Our capabilities are in employment law, HR process and design, but we then needed a developer to code everything we’d built, and bring MYHR to life. We had to get outsourced help.”

Most tech entrepreneurs do what Sean and Jason did, outsource the development of their product. The digital HR department founders discovered that doing so was relatively effective for them. It allowed them to get what they wanted, when they wanted, and for a relatively fixed price. “We could brief a job in and get it done, then test our product. We weren’t carrying any unnecessary overhead.”

The major drawback that MYHR had to manage when outsourcing the development side of their start-up, was the lack of innovative input from the developers themselves. Although they did a tremendous job, Jason found that the burden to innovate and make something revolutionary rested on him and Sean. The development team was essentially doing work for hire, and expecting them to have the same passion Jason was filled with, was unreasonable. “Our developers are great, but it’s the nature of their business that they work to projects. They work the brief, as quoted, and while they provide some proactive input, this is not the same as an in-house team who are invested in the business and idea.”

“We now have a junior developer in-house and he will transition to a lead role over time.”

Jason is passionate about employment law, which is not surprising since a large part of his start-up revolves around that part of New Zealand legislation. If you are slightly familiar with employment law, it is probable that you are of the opinion that it’s more generous to the employee. Jason disagrees.

“Many business groups put their efforts into lamenting the state of employment law, when I think they should spend more time helping New Zealand employers do things right.  It’s a bit like arguing that the speed limit is wrong after you’ve been pulled over.
Employment law in New Zealand requires a process to be followed, and the process is one of natural justice. It simply requires that if you are going to remove somebody from your business (for whatever reason) you must give a reason and seek their input first.

“I think the principles of natural justice are pretty important, it’s what differentiates us from societies where no such checks and balances exist.

“New Zealand employment courts aren’t very sympathetic to employees who are clearly idiots, but they do expect the process that has been entrenched in kiwi law for 13 years to be followed.

“It all starts with the employment agreement and I find that way too many Kiwi employers still don’t have employment agreements in place. Then for many who do have agreements, a whole lot more are using out-of-day recycled templates. This immediately opens the door to potential grievance, not to mention fines.”

MYHR’s tagline sums up its mission: to make HR easy.

“I think it is essential for every business to have solid employment practices and some sort of system to manage them. It is now a fixed, entrenched part of business operating compliance. The Employment Relations Act as been in place since 2000, and while it is constantly being tweaked, it won’t change significantly.

“Employment law compliance should be a fixed process within every business like good accounting practices.

“At a fundamental commercial level, quality HR practices will deliver cost and time savings. They will allow business owners and managers to focus on running the business, and not be dragged down with worry or unnecessary bureaucracy.  It is also very important for businesses looking to sell. Due diligence activities now look closely at employment terms and potential liabilities that may exist due to poor employment practice. A good, simple system greatly reduces risk and therefore liability for a purchaser.

“Once the basics are right, the next level value from a system like ours supports attraction and retention of good people in a competitive labour market, and helps build a great and productive company culture.

“Good businesses are realizing this now, and it’s becoming a point of difference for them.”

Be a good business.

Do you think 2013 is a good year to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

Yes I do. It’s definitely still tough.  Launching a business in 2013 has been a massive challenge in many ways, and despite a lot of positive sentiment there are still many businesses struggling out there and that makes our job harder. But we have achieved incredible growth and it feels like things might be starting to turn around generally.
As a HR expert, our skills are often required at all time. Unfortunately, during the tough economic times we are engaged in a lot of restructuring and redundancy. In the good years, our efforts are spent in other more positive areas. 2013 feels like a turning point year.  Good things to come. Besides, living and doing business in New Zealand is wicked.

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