March 16th 2022
Scaleup Diaries: Nathalie Alpi, CookiesHQ

If you want to listen to the podcast in full then click here.

Nathalie Alpi and her husband Nicolas co-founded CookiesHQ in 2011. They are a growing software development consultancy based in Bristol who help build software for scaleups and startups around the globe, supporting them in their growth.

In the 10 years since then, they have watched their business grow to a team of 16 and help countless other companies grow and invest in their staff.

We were excited at the chance to get Nathalie along to our Scaleup Diaries podcast series to chat to our Director Alan Furley about the difficulties covid brought to keeping the team happy, the importance of investing in your team and how to achieve growth in difficult times.

Here are our key takeaways:

Flexible working

CookiesHQ was offering flexible working before flexible working was a thing. They ask for only two things: dedication, and a stable internet connection.

It was interesting to hear Nathalie talk about an employee who took his laptop along to a Ruby conference in Kenya for a couple of weeks and got time to explore and experience something new outside of his job.

This isn’t to say they overlook the importance of touching base and working in the office alongside your team regularly but understand the unpredictable nature of life.

There is an understated value of the little in-between conversations that can take place in the office. Unscheduled and unplanned conversations can often be where the real insight can be given.

Investing into your team

Whether you have a team of 5 or a team of 500, you need to invest in your team for it to grow. Nathalie and Nic found success through an anonymous employer survey.

They sent out a survey asking how happy, fulfilled and supported their team felt in both a professional and personal sense (because both should be important to you as an employer!)

They also asked what CookiesHQ could do better.

The results were somewhat surprising, with the most popular suggestion not being salary increase or more holiday (although these were further down the list!) Instead, a focus on learning and development and more breathing room between projects to focus on personal development.

They then were able to take and implement the feedback to improve the team experience.

Nathalie found that even dedicating half a day a week to allow everyone to focus on an area that is non-client focused has boosted company moral. They encourage collaborative work between everyone in the business away from client-based projects.

As a result of the survey, CookiesHQ revamped their salary grid by taking a look at their market, what they can afford and the average market bracket for different seniority levels.

They focused on providing fair pay for their team. They have found this not only helps for recruitment purposes, but also gives room for career progression.


Don’t hire too quickly


One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a startup is hiring the wrong people early on. There is a pressure to grow your company but hiring the wrong people can do more harm than not hiring anyone at all.

Nathalie’s advice rings clear: find the people whose skills align with your needs, and don’t fall into the trap of hiring too many juniors at once- even if it feels like you are saving money, you aren’t!

In today’s hybrid working environment, it is hard to offer the training and support needed to junior staff. It is easy to put too much pressure on them to deliver something that they can’t quite achieve without this support.

CookiesHQ prides itself on helping their staff. They have found that by hiring a more senior level person earlier on, they can then help in the training of junior members of staff.

Nathalie speaks of the value of a recruitment service in offering essential support throughout the hiring process when you may not have the inhouse skills, believing if you have to pay for it then its money well spent.

The main take away from Nathalie’s chat with Alan was that people are the heart of CookiesHQ. They want a team that feels supported and can have fun together.

You don’t reach the 10-year milestone in business without recognising that everyone will move on one day. Nathalie places value on the position that a person will be in when they leave CookiesHQ, knowing that they have improved the company’s journey, and always hoping that CookiesHQ has set them up for success.

If you are a startup founder and have insight to share, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Our Director Alan Furley for the chance to be part of our Scaleup Diaries series.

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