One of the most pressing questions of the new small business owner is when to start hiring outside help. For many, the best advice is to start hiring early. The sooner you have help running your business, the faster you can grow. For more seasoned business owners, finding good employees (and keeping them) is an ongoing challenge. They may see the value in investing in a high-quality workforce but don’t have the resources to attract people with the right credentials. No matter what your situation is, the right employees can make or break a business. So how do you find them? And once you find them, how do you keep them?
Employees VS. Freelancers
First of all, if you are currently spending money on freelancers or contract workers, stop. While freelancers are wonderful when you’re just starting out, they can be a real pain to manage. Unless you find a solid freelancer (and they are out there), you may be spending more time tracking them down and keeping them on schedule than you do on your own work if your business is off the ground (you have an office, a website, and a small client base) you can likely afford at least one full-time employee.
So you’re ready for an employee. What now? The first step is to sit down and brainstorm about the duties you will need your new employee to perform. What skills will they need, and what experience? Don’t just focus on practical skills like knowledge of computer programs or experience with accounting. Think about personality skills and traits that will work well with your work style and business plan. If you are a quiet person who needs silent focus, don’t hire a college kid who has to listen to heavy metal to be productive. It’s common sense, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who don’t consider work habits when hiring employees.
Writing help-wanted ads is almost an art form. You are selling your company in your advertisement. This means you need to highlight your company’s achievements, include your mission statement, or otherwise make the job seem attractive to potential applicants. If you can offer some kind of benefits like health insurance or 401K, be absolutely sure to include it here. The good news: with the economic situation these days, there are many overqualified applicants out there who are willing to start on level one. Be as specific about your needs as you possibly can. The more specific you are, the more likely it is that you will find an employee who can do the job well.
If you’re on a tight budget, sacrifice fancy credentials for work experience and personality. If you find someone who is hungry, smart, and has a good work ethic, it won’t matter if they don’t have a degree. They can learn on the job, and you can pay them less while they do. In this scenario, you both win. Your employee gains valuable work experience and a decent living wage, and you get a great worker who will be happy with a lower-range salary. Be open to negotiation with your new employee but be honest about what you can realistically offer. If you present your small business entrepreneurially, your new employee will see the potential for growth and will likely be willing to start at a lower wage in the interest of long-term financial benefit.
Create a Productive and Comfortable Work Environment
Once you find an employee who fits well in your company, do everything you can to make that person’s work life pleasant. Buy a coffee maker. Put some art on the walls. The more comfortable your new employee feels on day one, the better your chances are of keeping her around. For new sales or marketing employees, offer commissions based on sales figures. Incentives like these keep motivated employees moving forward. They keep people working hard. The harder your employees want to work, the faster you will see success for your business.