If you’re a sole entrepreneur, you’re probably used to dealing with an overcrowded inbox, an ever-growing to-do list, and wishing there was a way to clone yourself.
This was certainly a thought running through my mind while I was scaling up my business, so if you’re looking to take on your first hire, I can certainly relate to the nerves and excitement you’re probably feeling.
When you start thinking about getting extra help, so many questions run through your head. Is now the right time? Can I afford it? Do I have the time to find someone, and what if they’re not the right fit?
From my own experience hiring new staff, and from helping other businesses do it for over 13 years, I am confident in sharing my tips for making a successful first hire. So if you’re looking to grow your business through the next best thing to a clone, below are some of my key tips to help.
Tip 1 - How to know when the time is right
I’ve always maintained that if you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of work, or if you’re concerned the quality of your service may be slipping, it’s likely a good time to recruit.
This is especially true if you’re having to turn away potential clients as you don't have enough manpower to service their needs.
Once you’ve identified you need help, the next step is mapping out exactly what you need help with, and creating a job description based on this.
It’s quite common for a sole trader’s first hire to be either an executive or administrative assistant - someone who can take on administrational roles to free the owner up to focus on income-producing tasks - however, this will differ from business to business.
Tip 2 - Be in a strong financial position
If you’ve been managing your workload with the help from contractors up until this point, the move to taking on your first full-time employee brings with it a lot of extra financial considerations.
Entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave, and superannuation will have to be factored into the cost of scaling up.
So when making your first hire, it’s common for your salary to initially decrease as a result. In one study conducted by US-based financial services firm Kabbage, it was revealed that of the 500 entrepreneurs surveyed, more than 50 percent forwent a paycheck to control business’ cash flow.
Viewing this as a short-term disadvantage, to what will hopefully be a great future of growth and success, can help see you through this period.
If these things seem a little too overwhelming or complicated, seeking the help of a financial consultant can be of great benefit.
Tip 3 - Consider if you have the time to find someone
When you’re considering taking on new employees, be aware of the time it’ll take to recruit, and the financial impact this time away from the business may have.
If you choose to advertise a position yourself, know that you’ll have to grapple with a range of applicants, many of whom may be unsuited, especially in a post JobKeeper market.
According to insights from jobadder.com, the average time to fill a permanent position in Australia is 28 days, not surprising given some employees need to give their current employers four weeks' notice.
As a solo operator that's a lot of time to be distracted from your main game, so it may be worth using a recruiter to streamline the process and help take the stress away.
Tip 4 - Tips to finding the right fit
In my experience, many sole operators turn to family and friends as a first option. However, integrating those you know personally into business can create blurred boundaries and expectations, so I often suggest looking outside of your immediate circle.
When it comes to shortlisting candidates, I recommend creating a list of the top four you’d like to interview. The insight interviews offer, regarding how well someone may fit into your business, is incredible, so for me, a lot of the decision comes down to this. Remember that technical skills can be learnt, but interpersonal ones often can’t be.
My last piece of advice is to avoid the temptation to skip the necessary steps along the recruitment process, such as conducting reference checks, as no short-cut is worth the cost of a bad hire.
Reaching this point in your business is an exciting time - building a business takes grit and determination, and few people make it to this point, so be proud of your efforts.