It’s a major milestone moment for any small business. You’ve been through the fledgling stage, anxiously trying to secure seed funding and launch your business, then you’ve been through a period of growth, often overstretching yourself personally as you struggle to wear too many hats all at once. You’ve found great suppliers, made countless pitches and secured a few key clients. Now you’re finally ready to move on to your next business milestone – taking on some employees.
The transition from solo entrepreneur to being a boss can be a difficult one to make. Your business is your baby, and relinquishing any form of control over it is difficult. At the same time, if you have little experience of hiring and managing people, that process can also be daunting. Recruitment can be a minefield – get it right and you have a committed individual who will bring fresh ideas into your business and allow you to scale new heights. Get it wrong, and you’ll be entering a spiral of costly mistakes that could take a huge toll on you and your company.
New team members have a disproportionate impact due to the small size of the business – they will have a big impact, whether positive or negative. You need someone you can trust to take on a significant proportion of the work. Taking on new hires is something your company will need to do in order to evolve and continue to grow, but there are certain things to be aware of as you go into the process.
Your New Hire Is An Integral Part Of Your Business
It’s natural for entrepreneurs to be protective of what they have fought so hard to build up, but try and prepare yourself for the fact that as your business grows, you will need to open up to others, which involves a huge amount of trust.
A lot of solopreneurs make the mistake of not accepting that a new hire is an integral part of a small business. It’s exciting and scary in equal measure – as a sign that your business is viable and continuing to grow, it’s wonderful, but the reality is that you now have someone to be responsible for and all the admin that involves, from administering a payroll to providing an employee assistance programme.
Your new employee is a huge chunk of your business and is absolutely crucial to your growth ambitions. Learning to delegate can be extremely difficult, especially if you’ve become a finely tuned machine in terms of your own productivity.
You’ll need to find someone you can adapt to the particular conditions of a start-up environment – it’s very different from working for a larger organisation, in that employees are typically expected to be more adaptable and perform a much wider range of tasks, as well as getting used to quick turnarounds and ad-hoc decision making. Make sure you find someone who is familiar or comfortable with that way of working, or it could be a bit a culture shock for them.
Making The Right Choice
If you don’t have lots of experience with recruitment and selection, it can be a daunting process, and you would be well advised to seek support from a recruitment consultant specialising in your sector.
This may seem like an expensive way to go about things when you can just post a role to LinkedIn, but making the wrong decision can be a hugely costly mistake. Finding an employee is resource intensive both in terms of time and money. It’s an investment that you are choosing to make in the future growth of your company.
If you bring in the wrong person, not only do you have to face the expense of recruiting again, but you may also have hired someone that will actively lose your company money through lost revenue. Recruitment expertise is something which only comes through experience, and in a small business without deep pockets, it’s even more crucial to get it right first time.
Hire For The Right Role
It’s all too easy to think you need to recruit a certain role – business development, marketing, admin – just because it’s the done thing. But it pays to make sure that you are recruiting the right person for the right role, and that all starts with crafting an accurate job description.
Start by mapping out all of the tasks your business has to to handle on a daily basis. Then organise them according to urgency and where the sticking points are. This will identify the true bottlenecks in your operation and let you know what you really need to recruit someone to be doing. Build your job description around these urgent points and be honest – the main cause of employee churn is people finding out that their job description doesn’t ring true and what they applied for isn’t what’s actually filling the majority of their time.
Never oversell the vacancy that you have, or you’ll end up with someone vastly overqualified for the role who will leave and take the next great opportunity to come along. Far better, if it really comes down to it, to go for someone slightly underqualified, but who is keen and has potential. That way, not only are they likely to be more grateful to be given a start and hence a more loyal employee, but you also have the chance to help shape them into your ideal employee through mentoring and appropriate training.
Prepare For A Learning Curve
With the process of recruitment and onboarding, you’ll be pretty focused on the learning curve your new employee will be going through – but you also need to appreciate that it’s a learning curve for you as well, especially if you haven’t taken on staff before. Be honest with yourself about what skills you need to develop or improve in order to be a good people manager or a good leader.
As well as onboarding, also consider the need for an orientation session as well. Orientation will allow your new hire to better understand your company culture, introduce them to other employees, explain expectations and any corporate “language” that you use.
It’s perfectly okay to admit that there are likely to be things you also need to work on. No path is entirely smooth, so be prepared for some ups and downs where you may need to lean on your own mentor for advice and support. When a new person enters your company with fresh eyes, you must accept that they bring with them their own ideas and will evaluate existing arrangements with fresh eyes, which can be challenging for you.
Evaluating their own and your strengths and weaknesses is absolutely key. They may need additional training in some areas to really excel – and you may also need some training yourself! Expecting things to be perfect from the off is setting yourself up for failure. Anticipating the adjustment period puts you in a much stronger position. The first person you hire also sets the tone for everyone that comes after them – they are creating the company culture.
The person you choose to employ, especially at the start, will have a formative role in determining the work ethic and performance standards that your company has, and will show you pretty clearly where the boundaries lie. So think about what values you have for your company, what you want the office culture to be like and the qualities that you’d like to be around.
Consider introducing some tasks around these qualities during the interview process, such as psychometric assessment or practical tasks that show you how the candidate is really likely to tackle their daily work. If you hire with these in mind from the start, then you’re likely to tailor the interviews around determining those qualities and end up attracting someone who is the right fit for your company.