There's a first time for everything, and it's best to be prepared for it. Here's what you need to know when hiring your first employee.
The whole reason you started your own business was to be your own boss. When your business expands to the point where you can’t do it all on your own anymore, you have to consider becoming someone else’s boss. But first you have to be a hiring manager.
What should you look for in a new employee? And what changes do you need to make in transitioning from solo entrepreneur to employer?
Perhaps like you, Phoenix photographer Melissa Jill never thought she’d be anything more than a one-person, boutique operation. But, as reported by MSNBC, she came to realize she was missing out on opportunities she couldn’t handle on her own. A number of potential customers liked her work, but couldn’t afford her. Initially, Jill referred them to other local photographers. But as these types of leads continued to come in, Jill decided to offer a lower priced tier of her brand. But to do that, she needed to hire associate photographers. Her hiring criteria provide good guidelines to consider.
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What should you look for in prospective new employees?
Do they represent your brand?
This is particularly important for new employees in customer-facing positions. Does the potential new hire understand, share and reflect your company’s values and identity?
Do they have the skills and potential?
Obviously, people should be able to do the tasks you hire them to perform. But beyond matching what’s on the resume to what you want them to do, get a sense of potential hires’ capacity to grow, to respond to new situations. After all, that’s why you’re hiring in the first place, to respond to new demands and conditions. As your business expands, you should expect your employees to adapt and develop new strategies on their own just as you are.
Do you feel comfortable with them?
It’s not that you have to like them, necessarily, though certainly that’s desirable. It’s whether you feel you can develop a positive working relationship. Your first set of employees is particularly important, because they in turn will make future business and hiring decisions that determine the success of your business. There are no multiple layers of bureaucracy shielding you from people you find it hard to work with. You’re working shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Make sure the shoulders won’t rub the wrong way.
What are their aspirations? What are yours?
Melissa Jill takes the time to train her associate photographers so they provide the high quality work her brand represents. The last thing she wants is for people to take that training and set up a competitive shop of their own. Jill looks for creative people who aren’t really interested in the business side of photography. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be hiring people who say they aspire to be entrepreneurs themselves someday. You want people interested in the job you are offering, not people who want to do your job someday.
Have they worked for start-ups or small companies before?
As The Wall Street Journal points out, while it might be tempting to hire candidates with big business credentials, it probably won’t be a good fit. Small companies should hire people with small company experience because they are more flexible, are more likely to take on greater responsibility, and are more used to small working environments.
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How to Change From Solo Practitioner to Employer
You’re used to doing everything. Now that your business has grown, and you need people to help you manage that growth, your biggest challenge is to let go. Allow the people you hire to do the jobs you hired them to do. It wouldn’t be the first time an entrepreneur micro-managed his employees. And it wouldn’t be the first time that resulted in a toxic work environment. The whole point of hiring employees is to allow you to concentrate on higher level activities and let others undertake the legwork. But you won’t have that time if you’re wasting time monitoring each and every step they take.
If you absolutely can’t step back and let people work for you, maybe you need to step back and think about scaling down your business rather than scaling up.