When a new business hires its very first employee the event is a milestone for many reasons, not the least being that unlike the company owner, this one actually has to be paid in real money and on a regular basis! It’s also a key sign that the business is growing and can be sustainable and profitable over the long term.
There’s a lot riding on this first employee, and it’s important that nothing is left to chance. Here are a few pointers to make sure everything goes smoothly, so that your first hire will be the first of many.
What, me a bad manager?
Yes, it’s hard to be believe but you may not be the best people manager in the world. Business owners who have experience of managing employees in a previous job obviously have a head start when it comes to getting the best out of people. But entrepreneurs by definition tend to be individualists who do everything themselves and expect others to know what they are thinking by some sort of telepathy. However most people do need managing, even those much in demand ‘self-starters’.
Take time to communicate your expectations and to pass on essential information and, no matter how busy you are, let employee number one know that you are always there to help. If you have the time, it would also be beneficial to go on a training course to find out how to get the most out of your staff, or at the very least read up on the subject.
And if you only learn one management skill, learn how to delegate.
Don’t be frightened of Generation Y
Poor old Generation Y, they’re getting a shocking reputation as being too demanding in what they want from a job, loving variety and worst of all, wanting to be paid a good salary. But in fact these are all attributes of highly successful executives too, so embrace Generation Y (those born in the 1980s and 1990s).
If your first hire is a Generation Y – and they probably will be – by catering to their demands your workplace will be dynamic, fun and a hive of activity.
Skills or personality
Your new employee will have to hit the ground running, so it’s tempting to employ someone who won’t need any training and who has all the skills you need. However small businesses are constantly changing and you may prefer to hire someone who is adaptable, a quick learner and enjoys a challenge.
We’re not Exxon Mobil
There’s nowhere to hide in a small company, it’s ‘perform or else’ for everyone. Make this clear to people you interview, especially if they have come from a big company environment or are a school leaver or recent graduate whose perception of business may be somewhat unrealistic.
Be prepared to sell your business to the candidates, stressing the unique challenges and benefits that working for a small yet rapidly growing company can bring – even though a lot of the perks and privileges of working for the big corporates aren’t available (yet!). Working for a small company is likely to be much more satisfying than working for a big company, with many more opportunities to take on key responsibilities. There’s a lot more variety too.
Beware the empty desk syndrome
If there’s one thing worse than having an unfilled vacancy, it’s having a vacancy that’s been filled by the wrong person.
In any office there a few things more dispiriting than looking at a desk and wishing that the person sitting behind it wasn’t there, and it’s even worse when that person is the only other person in the company. Especially because start-ups are often based in small premises and you’re going to be working in very close proximity!
Getting a good fit is absolutely vital, and a rigorous recruitment process will help ensure this.
Easing into it
Another way to make sure you’re not lumbered with someone who doesn’t work out is to gradually take them on as a full-time employee.
You may want to start them off on a temporary basis at first to see how they fit in. Other options are to hire someone as an intern or on a work-experience basis before making them an offer for a permanent position.
And when you do take them on permanently, make it clear that there is a three-month probation period before their permanent status will be confirmed. (The responsibility is of course on you to make sure that you are actively involved during these three months to see how they are doing and giving feedback when necessary).
Boring but important
If you thought taxation laws were complicated, wait until you see what employment legislation is like!
There is an absolute jungle of red tape waiting to entangle employers, covering everything from pay through to unfair dismissal, occupational health and safety and sexual harassment. Professional help is essential, although you can keep costs down by using business associations and the free help available from government departments.
Are they who they say they are?
There is an unfortunate tendency for people to be creative when it comes to writing a resume. The occasional blurring of dates may not make much difference in the long run but some people get carried away and create qualifications and responsible roles that they have never in fact had.
No matter how busy you are, take time to phone up those names given as referees, and also academic institutions, to make sure that everything on the resume of your dream candidate checks out.
One fashion company hired an applicant who looked excellent on paper and reinforced this impression by negotiating very assertively for the high salary that she thought she deserved, even getting a prestigious European company car. But as the months went past she didn’t quite perform to expectations and it was only after she left that it was discovered that much of her resume was a complete fantasy.
Need More Advice On Small Business Management? Tune Into KBB Series 6, 11am Sunday on Channel 7!