Omowalle Casselle turned his big-company experience into startup success, and he did it with a focus on people and culture.
Casselle is the co-Founder of Digital Adventures, an early-stage company that offers computer coding classes, digital technology camps, tech-focused birthday parties and makers workshops for Pre-K - 12th grade kids. Just two years old, Digital Adventures has expanded to three locations and has hit profitability.
I had the opportunity to speak with this dynamic entrepreneur about his approach to building and scaling his organization. Casselle shared with me that there are three characteristics that he's looking for when screening for new hires.
1. Independent Thinkers
Casselle's experience working with large employers taught him that there's no substitute for team members who can get stuff done without a lot of hand-holding. At large companies, it's possible for team members to hide from accountability. At a startup ,that's simply not possible--or tolerable.
Says Casselle, "Going out on my own and being separate from a larger corporate entity, I think something that I was really interested in hiring for is people who could be creative about developing solutions from the ground up without a ton of guidance or understanding on what the endpoint looked like."
2. Empathetic People
Empathetic people make for better product developers and customer managers, according to Casselle. He's looking for individuals who can connect the dots between customer experience and product development.
"The thing I try to understand or dive into most when hiring is empathy," he told me during our discussion. "I think that when you're developing a solution, whether it be at Ford Motor Company, at Redbox, or now at Digital Adventures, you really have to be able to understand customers at a deep level, and then use that knowledge and insight to develop a solution that exceeds their expectations."
3. People Who Have Learned from Failure
Casselle knows that failures produce insights, and these critical insights are the engine that powers the growth of the business. If you're unable to view failure as a learning opportunity, you're probably not going to be a great fit for his company.
"What I really try to get into is: 'Yes, failure. Sometimes that's unavoidable, but what did you actually learn from it? What are the things that you were able to take away?' Because that to me suggests that you're able to kind of get outside of yourself and find something that was at a level that maybe you didn't understand when you were going through it in the trenches, but now that you've come out on the other side, you're able to say, 'Hey, you know what? We didn't quite get that right, and here's what I would have done differently.'"
What's clear is that Casselle's success in business is linked to an intentional approach to building his team and his company's culture.
Says Casselle, "Those people that show a level of intellectual maturity and empathy are very valuable, given the rollercoaster ride of most startups."