Hupo Logo
BlackHills Logo

Kenny Yu on the balancing act of managing top talent

When starting a new business, it can be tempting to get wrapped up in the numbers – but investing in your people early on will pay dividends for the rest of your business journey.

That’s why Hupo sat down with Kenny Yu - Managing Partner at BlackHills Consulting. Since 2016, Kenny and his team have scaled BlackHills from a startup to a well-known boutique real estate firm of 130+ employees — primarily by focusing on talent from day one.

Below, Kenny explores the why and how of investing in talent management, including:

  1. 1. The negative long-term impacts of overlooking talent.
  2. 2. Why startups struggle to attract talent.
  3. 3. How young businesses can both attract and retain top talent.

Let’s dive in.

It’s so important for anyone starting a business to invest the money to support their talent and their image in the industry before they can really make a fortune.

Why startups must prioritize talent from day one

Ignoring talent management will hinder your business growth

Early on, founders tend to neglect investing in first hires and physical spaces. With a keen focus on staying lean, they often hire for the lowest possible salaries in the cheapest possible office.

Here’s what typically happens next:

  1. 1. Their staff is largely underqualified, leading them to underperform. 
  2. 2. Their staff is further unmotivated by the lack of consideration put into their workplace, team environment, company culture, etc.
  3. 3. Years down the line, the business may be functional, but it never quite reaches its full potential without talented people dedicated to its growth.

This is why the BlackHills team has invested heavily in their people from the get-go. By hiring the right talent and putting them in a workplace where they can feel at home and productive, the firm can simultaneously:

  1. 1. Build high-quality internal workflows and external offerings from the ground up.
  2. 2. Cultivate a put-together, high-end reputation to clients and competitors alike.

It’s hard to survive as a one-man band when you have surrounded yourself with staff who can only perform at 40% because you didn’t invest in the talent to meet your business goals.

Recruiting & retaining top talent is a balancing act

Even with an impressive reputation, startups can struggle to attract and retain top talent.

For instance, BlackHills is already well-known and highly respected as a boutique firm in their industry based in Hong Kong. However, they’re up against far more established names, which have the operational security, support networks, etc.

As a result, the best talent in the pool may question, “The company is great, but is there enough support for me to launch and sustain my career here?” With this, BlackHills has kept the two following tactics in mind:

1. Investing in talent management to attract top talent

It wasn’t until 2023 that Kenny began to see job seekers treat BlackHills like a reputable startup employer (as opposed to just a well-known boutique firm). He attributes this shift to a number of workplace and people-first initiatives over the years — the latest being partnering with Hupo to:

By investing in and offering talent resources like Hupo, BlackHills shows prospective hires that they take employee development and career growth seriously. 

2. Balancing employee satisfaction with motivation to improve

Since he and his partners founded BlackHills in 2016, Kenny has constantly asked, “How can I make our team happy and keep them happy?”.

It’s an effective, motivating mantra. It can also lead to a problematic team mentality. “Your people may assume the company will do everything for them,” explains Kenny, “instead of motivating themselves to contribute to the business and also take responsibility for their own growth”.

With Hupo’s help, his team has pivoted to balancing and aligning what employees want with what the company needs, in a way that benefits both. Kenny now asks:

  1. 1. What can we do to keep BlackHills employees as happy as possible?
  2. 2. How do we motivate them to always improve to keep the business working?

Want to know more about Hupo and Blackhills’ partnership? Read on here.

Get started with Hupo.

Featured in

ForbesForbes in Asia 100 watchTech In AsiaCNN