Growing a software development team quickly is a challenge and you need to start with a good core base of people to build from. When we started Autofinity we knew we had to start expanding the team in order to create the best solutions in the market.
Autofinity was formed when two companies in different areas of the automotive market joined to provide a larger range of solutions and services to the automotive industry. We started TheDevHouse in 2015 to provide software solutions to the automotive market using our extensive experience. The other company was RecoAuto, which was started in 2012 by Geoff Wheeler and his team to focus on avoiding total losses and returning as many vehicles back to the road as possible after an accident. TheDevHouse started with 8 of us, we had just 2 web developers, a database administrator, a data specialist and an account manager, along with myself, Adrian and Dave.
Coming from working together at 2ndByte and AutoTrader for a number of years, TheDevHouse was a really strong, tight-knit team. With new investors and the joining of the businesses, we suddenly had a number of new products to support in addition to our initial manufacturer contract, so we knew we needed to grow fairly quickly.
Our initial developer hires were outstandingly bright but also actually really got what we did. When they started there was obviously a little uncertainty about whether they would fit in and gel well with the existing team. Having worked together for so long, we were also concerned that the existing team would seem unapproachable to new hires as they had the shorthand and familiarity that comes from years of working together and can be daunting to new people. But in fact, we were really pleased that the new people just seemed to fit from day one – with the same level of banter and humour.
You can see that in the office. There is that level of communication where people are relaxed around each other, which is good because they chat about issues and ideas more freely. That definitely contributes to our very low staff turnover and level of innovation in our products.
The most important thing for us is that new staff are a good cultural fit for the company. Luckily Dave, Adrian and I have a similar view on the type of person that works well, so we agreed together whether a candidate was the right fit for the company or not and that really helped. Initially we did have a couple of people that weren’t a good fit but they quite quickly decided on their own terms that it wasn’t going to work out.
At the beginning, we were trying to fill gaps where we needed specific roles. We wanted to stay as lean as possible, but found that people were spending so much time on one activity that it didn’t give them enough time for anything else. So we hired testers, database specialists and a designer.
Now, two years later, the development team has 8 web developers, 4 database administrators and developers, 1 UX designer, a data specialist, testers, analysts and a product team.
We needed to invest in building new products and rebuilding older products and we continued to recruit the whole time we felt there was a gap in our capabilities. When we thought the company culture was spreading too thin we paused recruitment to allow new hires to ‘bed in’. We wanted the culture we had built up to follow through, and it has.
Essentially what we now have is a new development team. We built it from the ground up, meaning the team members have been instrumental in developing the products and their capabilities.
It has also been important for us to bring in graduates and apprentices and not just heavy weight developers, so they could grow with the business and feel part of it. We know from experience that if these people at the start of their careers are supported and nurtured in the right way they have the capability of becoming really valuable members of the team and often the superstars!