All successful small business owners come to a time with their business where they will have to decide if they want to grow by adding staff, and whether those new hires will be permanent or temporary, full-time or part-time, regular employees or contractors. Growing in this way is exciting. It also adds a layer of complication that the majority of small business owners feel they are ill-equipped to handle. Recruiting is an art. Managing staff is a skill. Both are often underdeveloped when you are ready to hire your first addition. Rejoice if you are in a position to decide whether you need staff — you are among the successful. But, before you hire, learn the basics. Be prepared. Ask for help if you need it. Taking the “learn as I go” approach to human resources can be costly.
Avoid these pitfalls:
- Rushing to fill the need: No matter how much you want the right resource to come quickly it will take the time it takes. Hiring the wrong resource fast will just mean you have to do without the right resources longer. Mack and Karen have a small manufacturing firm that is on the rise. They needed a new operations manager. They know having this person in place will offer them an opportunity to grow even faster. Less then a week after posting the open position, they hired the best of the candidates that applied even though she did not have the skills or experience they needed. Two weeks later, they were frustrated and had to repeat the process.
- Waiting too long: Hire when you first see the need, not when it has become critical. Richard owns an accounting firm. Every year he waits until tax season has already begun to hire the help he knows he will need. Then he rushes to plug the holes. Every year he is frustrated when the best resources have already been hired and he has to make do with “B” or “C” talent — none of which become permanent team members.
- Hiring the “possibility:” See the candidate for what they are and only what they are. Do not hire on potential unless you have the time to develop it. Mark is an optimist. He sees potential everywhere, and that includes people. When he began building his marketing agency he hired creative people that he thought could develop into project managers. He soon learned that just because they wanted to learn project management did not mean they could do the job he needed them to do. His team blossomed as soon as he hired creative project managers.
- Hiring for comfort instead of contribution: Dan, like so many other small business owners, started his consulting business on his own expertise. Quickly he needed to add staff. In the beginning he relied heavily on candidates that he “liked’ and that he felt he has something “in common” with. Disagreements were high from the start and turnover was common. When we analyzed the situation we realized Dan was hiring himself — over and over. He was hiring his comfort level but not hiring the right skill sets or experiences to fill the gaps. Once he did so his team flourished and client contracts increased.
- Looking for an “A” player in a “B” pile: Mike always wants the best sales person, but his compensation plan is not competitive. His hope is that he will find a “diamond in the rough,” a real “A” player that is only asking for a “B” wage. This is a lose-lose strategy. Even if you are lucky enough to hire someone with more potential than their experience reflects they will not be happy with an under-market salary for long. In the end, you still have turn over if you cannot retain the right talent.
There are many resources on the subject of hiring and retaining the right employees.
Stay tuned for more from my new book: Plan It! Do It! Love It! on living and loving your small business lifestyle.