October 6, 2013

Rachel Strella

Small Business Hiring: What You Need to Know

I recently received an email from a friend asking for advice about hiring help.  She, too, is asmall business hire help busy social media manager, and as her business grows, she’s finding it harder to deliver exceptional customer service.  She’s concluded that she needs help, but is unsure where to start. Should she hire an independent contractor?  What qualities should she look for?  How can she delegate work and trust her expectations will be met?

Whether we ultimately decide to hire help or not, most business owners grapple with similar questions at one time or another.  For years, I’ve worked with contractors, employees and even potential business partners.  I’ve learned some hard hiring lessons in a short amount of time – and wanted to share my insight to help my friend and other small business owners who might be struggling with the same questions.

Do you need hired help or do you need to simplify? When I get overwhelmed, it’s usually for one of the following reasons: I’m taking on too much, I’m spending time on unnecessary tasks, I need to establish better boundaries, I’m putting too much pressure on myself or I need to create better systems and processes.  Any of these sound familiar? Small business owners try to do it all and many of us have very high expectations of our work. This drive is what helped us to establish a business, but it’s also the thing that keeps us from knowing when to let our foot off the gas. I recommend taking stock of everything going on in your business and consider where you might be able to make adjustments before assuming the commitment of an employee or contractor.

Hiring help doesn’t always mean less work. There’s no quick fix about it – employees and contractors are a company investment.  They help to share the workload, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp on training. You’ll need to invest time – up front – to show them the ropes and continue to be patient with them as they learn.  Be prepared to invest time and energy into both developing them to learn the job and into learning how to lead. Hiring anyone – no matter how small their role – is about teamwork and I’ll be the first to admit that I needed a leadership lesson before I took that leap. Consider the time it will take to evolve from not only a business owner, but also to a manager --- and to a leader.

hiring helpTrust your instincts – and don’t settle!  After posting the ad for my first employee, I received over 100 resumes. Even determining whom to interview proved difficult. It was even tougher when candidates I interviewed turned out to be sub-par. Having already spent two weeks on this process, alone, I wasn’t ready to start all over again. So, I settled.  My gut told me not to, but I was desperate for some help.  As you can guess, it didn’t work out very well. Within the first month, I had to fire the person. The process of finding the right person is something that could take some time.  You’ll back track later if you hire someone when your gut told you otherwise. To truly make hiring worth your while, it’s vital to get the right people on the bus.

Establish clear expectations, priorities and procedures.  If/when you decide on a candidate, you’ll also want to put a communication system in place. This has multiple layers, starting with establishing your management style and learning what works best for both of you, followed by outlining clear expectations of each other. This goes for you and for the other person. While it’s critical that you establish clear expectations for your staff, you’ll also want to learn what they expect of you. If they expect that you’ll be available 24/7 or that you’ll simply fix mistakes rather than teach them the proper way to do things, then it’s time for a candid conversation.  It’s also important that they understand what takes priority as things get busy, when it’s time to shift tasks, and when it’s time to simply ask you what needs done first.  Finally, it’s really helped me to have procedure guides for everything. This has been a lifesaver in my business. You’ll never be able to catch every detail, but establishing procedures for as many tasks as possible has saved me a lot of time.

It’s your business – it’s YOUR baby. No matter how much we manage, lead – and sometimes plead – business owners are a rare breed and rarely will anyone have the same level of passion and drive for our business as we do.  Truthfully, even the best employees may never exert the same level as energy as you. Your business is your baby.  Set the bar high, clearly communicate expectations, but also know when to settle for excellence over perfection!

What else does my friend need to know about hiring as a small business owner?

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4 comments on “Small Business Hiring: What You Need to Know”

    1. Hi Rickie,

      Thank you. I was proud of this one. I learned a lot of lessons over the years so I'm happy to share my triumphs to spare another small business owner from making the same mistakes as me.


  1. Yes, another great one, Rachel! I was just discussing this with one of my power partners this morning as we discussed challenges of staffing to grow the business.

    One thing I discovered was that you need to be careful on hiring someone as an outside contractor (no tax liability) versus employee. (Company tax liabilities) According to IRS, if a contractor is doing work solely for you and on a consistent basis, they should be an employee.

    Hope this tidbit is helpful!

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