When his wife and co-founder had their first son in September 2020, Daniel Sher found himself ‘not very sane’ and struggling with his workload. He was interviewing people for the store manager position of their retail space, Duck Duck Goose, in central Cape Town. One of the candidates for that job, Erin, became Daniel's assistant and factory manager.
‘She shadowed me for three or four months and followed me everywhere. She's CC'd in every email I ever send. She started a WhatsApp [chat] with every customer and supplier I used to talk to. She ended up relieving me of a shit-ton of pressure and, ultimately, opening space for me to focus on high-level growth for the business,’ says Daniel. Now, having learned the value of helping hands, they're looking for an assistant for Erin. ‘It's been difficult to find a person who cares that much about my business in the way that she does,’ he says.
It shouldn't always take burning out to start recruiting but, for founders who want to keep control of their companies, it's often the way.
Taking into account
Daniel's career in clothing is an unlikely one. He started work as a chartered accountant after studying at Wits University in Johannesburg. He was set on his path when he took a vacation to Cape Town during his studies – it was there that he met his wife, Paige, in 2010. The two started dating long-distance and, after two years, decided to get into business.
Paige's family have owned a clothing factory in Cape Town for about 27 years. Her mum, who's been working in clothing production and manufacturing for more than four decades, taught Paige everything she knew. ‘They're technical garment experts. I don't think there's anyone who does it better than them in the world,’ says Daniel. He cites a recent difficult job that he pulled off: ‘If it wasn't for my mother-in-law and my wife and their technical expertise and garment professionalism, I might never have learned the things I've learned in order to manage that job myself.’
While Daniel was still working in finance, he and Paige started menswear brand Me.plus.one. They did several collaborations, one of which won a design competition on online learning platform Skillshare. The win gave Daniel confidence to move into clothing production full-time, and he started Good Good Good as a way to service a broad range of body types with high-quality, multi-seasonal clothing. He sees the T-shirt as the brand's core product and his life's work: ‘I've been focusing on making the best quality T-shirt for the past 12 years,’ says Daniel. The brand's cotton is all locally sourced, milled and grown in South Africa and nearby countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe.
For a while, Daniel used his mother-in-law's staff but, as demand for their services grew, he realized that Good Good Good needed its own. ‘We do a lot of word-of-mouth advertising for the factory facility, so people see the work that we do and find us,’ says Daniel. He'd been renting space in his mother-in-law's factory since the birth of Good Good Good but, over the past 12 months, his manufacturing facility has outgrown it. He split from the main business and now has about 15 employees of his own.
‘It's such a small and manageable business and we can decide in what direction we can grow. New roles and job titles can be defined by the people who join,’ says Daniel. That means that people often get hired for one role and end up doing another altogether. ‘You can define your career path if you're prepared to do anything that you need to do in order to propel the company forward.’
During the hiring process, Daniel tries to stick to Good Good Good's core company values. ‘They are: keeping our promises, pushing it to the limit, celebrating our victories, owning our mistakes and together is better,’ says Daniel. ‘I look for someone who's very hardworking and is going to go above and beyond what's set out in the contract for the company,’ says Daniel. ‘That comes down to being passionate about the work that our company does.’ For the retail staff, personality is key. ‘It's got to be someone who can make customers feel at home in what can be an intimidating space. People mustn't feel pressured to buy stuff, but they must feel at ease with trying things on, even if it's outside of their budget.’
When hiring for the manufacturing facility, it's all about skills. ‘You have to be able to sew or cut in a certain way,’ says Daniel. People tend to walk into the factory looking for work and, if they have a vacancy, that person will get tested on the spot. ‘We see to what level of quality they can do it.’ However, recruiting for the manufacturing arm has gotten more difficult as the art of sewing and garment-making has been lost. ‘It doesn't seem like the younger generation of South African people are interested in pursuing a career in garment construction,’ he adds.
Daniel's main advice to other business owners is to be diligent and to avoid hiring on a gut feeling. ‘I phone every reference on the CV and ask detailed questions. I make sure that the person joining me has a strong history of prior work, and I interview potential candidates at least three times before offering them the job,’ he says. ‘It's important that the people I employ are nice, but I think someone can show themselves to be nice through their actions and work. An impressive history of work is the single most important thing in hiring a potential candidate, in addition to being a person that can gel with my team.’
Founders often need employees who are keen to grow with and within the company, and Good Good Good is no different. The growth is clear; the people Daniel hires often end up in different roles – marketing, social media or factory management – than those they went in for. Opportunities abound. ‘The sky's the limit for anyone that joins my business,’ says Daniel.
This article was first published in How to Start a Business 2023. To purchase a copy or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.