Hiring staff when you personally fill the roll of the founder, the only employee, the sales manager, operations chief and everything in between can feel like an overwhelming task.
Many people will tell you that hiring the right people is probably the most important thing that a young business can do. That’s easier said than done when you have to keep your business afloat while trying to find time to interview people for a position that doesn’t exist yet and for which you feel you’re the only one qualified.
It’s also hard to find incredible talent at an affordable price when you’re a start-up trying to save money to grow. Sometimes growth comes at a price. There are some hard and fast rules that I have learnt over the past few years about hiring staff that I try to stick to. Firstly, hire slowly.
No matter how much pressure you’re under, do not rush. Secondly, don’t settle for average. Average means that you’ll still be doing a lot of clean-up work after your team member. Here are a few more pointers to guide you through your first few team hires.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
Then hire people to do everything else. When you start out in your business you’ll be doing everything. When you start to build a team, you need to hire people who are better than you.
Not better than you at everything (that can come later) but better than you at key things that your business needs and that you suck at. So it’s important to figure out what you are excellent at and what you want to do versus the things that you have to do because you’re the only person in the business.
I absolutely hate admin and accounts, so I’ve found a person who is brilliant at writing courier waybills, checking stock and managing our invoicing process. The rest is my job in the meantime.
Once you’ve figured out what you’re good at and you’ve reached your breaking point in terms of how much you can actually get done in a single day, it’s time to hire someone. But be sure to hire someone who wants to work at a start-up and as hard as you work. It’s also important to remember that the next person you hire has to add something very material to your business.
They either need to free you up to do what you are good at or they need to be incredible at something that will bring you more revenue in some way. More revenue will lead to more freedom in the business to hire incredible people and grow effectively.
DON’T HIRE BECAUSE IT’S ‘COOL’
Gone are the days when a big head count meant a successful business. Do not value your business by the number of people you employ. If you can build an extremely profitable, sustainable and scalable business with two staff members then do that. However you must recognise that there may come a time when you will need to hire your way out of a plateau or slump.
Sometimes it’s a great thing to get new blood into the business with a specialised skill that can accomplish a very specific goal. The perfect example is a sales executive. As a founder you often fill the role of sales executive, implementation officer and everything in between.
Very often there is a point in a business when you need someone who is a born sales person to come into the business and grow your lead pipeline and close those deals. his position might be expensive to hire, but if you get the right person in they can increase your revenue within a couple of months.
CULTURE FIT IS IMPERATIVE
There are a lot of things that you can teach someone to do in a business. Just about any intelligent hire will be able to learn how to use your coffee machine, add a ‘to do’ in your project management tool and figure out how to do accounts if they absolutely have to. Something that is significantly more difficult to teach is corporate culture. At a start-up the team is everything.
If there is an odd egg that doesn’t quite fit in with your culture of early mornings, sprints up the road for team building and love of Taylor Swift music at lunch time, then you’re going to have a problem. One bad hire can destroy a company culture, and when your team is small and your business young, that’s when you need people to really galvanise and want to work for one another. Make sure that you are hiring the best people for their position who really fit your company culture.