You may be accustomed to being at the helm of your business; in charge of every aspect and operation, making all of the decisions and doing all of the work. But if you want to grow from micro to small or from small to mid-size, you must scale your capacity at some point--and that means letting go of some of the control. Are you ready?
Doug and Polly White of Whitestone Partners help principals transition their businesses into enterprises. They've witnessed all of the issues that separate the businesses that thrive from those that flounder.
"Getting the entrepreneur to believe that anyone can do the work of the business as well as he or she can is certainly a challenge," says Polly White.
Solopreneurs who are providing a service, like painters and repair persons, consultants, and even doctors, remain "stuck" at a certain level of income, hesitating to pull the trigger when it comes to bringing on other providers. Unless you are willing to bring someone else on board and teach them to do at least a part of the process, there is no way your business can grow.
"Whether you choose to hire people who can do the primary work of the business or find some other ancillary help, at least in the beginning, it's a critical move if you are going to scale," says Polly White.
Many small- and micro-business owners are reluctant to hand over even the smallest of tasks because they don't believe anyone else can do the job as well as they can. But what is the cost of doing business all alone? Are your personal and professional needs being met? Are you making top dollar and are you happy doing it?
Once you've made the decision that it's time to grow, you will cross through the doors of your virtual HR headquarters. As if letting go of control isn't enough to deal with, the business owners who haven't developed the skill of interviewing and hiring may struggle here as well. How do you know how to hire the right people for the right jobs? The Whites have developed a five-step process to greatly improve the odds of your hiring success.
Decide what you need. Take the time to understand the kinds of behavior, cognitive abilities, experience and physical requirements that you need your new employee to possess. People tend to hire skills, but the Whites suggest that you hire behaviors and train skills--especially at the entry level. Hire someone who is going to turn up on time, work hard, interface well with others and isn't likely to take home things that don't belong to them. Hire smart and honest people. Ask a lot of questions in the interview process, connect with your intuition and get to know your candidates well before you offer them the job.
Decide what you have to offer. You will be competing against much larger companies who can offer more in the way of compensation and benefits. But you have a lot to offer potential employees too. Many people appreciate the family feel of a smaller company, where their ideas will be heard and they get to wear a few different hats. Larger companies typically offer jobs that are very narrowly focused and stifle the creativity of the employees.
Cast a broad net with a narrow focus. Go outside of friends and family when you do your search. Don't be afraid of receiving fifty resumes because if you know exactly what you need and what you have to offer, you can go through that stack of resumes quickly and focus just on the promising few. Many smaller employers shy away from advertising for employees because they don't know how to quickly identify the best candidates. Thinking it through ahead of time will make this process much easier.
Leverage multiple methods and opinions. Small business owners tend to think they have to go through the hiring process alone, writing the job description and the ads, screening all of the resumes, doing all of the interviewing. But you really should have other people involved. If you are the only person in the business, you can hire a consultant or someone who can help you interview. Others see and hear things very differently and that input is valuable. Reach out to another business person to sit in on your interviews and do a review of the applicants with your coach or mentor. You don't have to do this alone.
Trust, but verify. Many, many resumes contain deliberate omissions and falsifications. Well over 50% of all resumes have misleading information. Make sure you verify the information and do background checks. About 30% of small biz failures are due to employee theft and fraud, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. You can avoid falling victim to this trend by doing in-depth reference checks and background checks.
This may feel like a big job, and it is. But the trick is to hire well so that you don't have to perform the hiring task for the same position over and over again. By following this process and understanding how to dig deep in the interview, as well as in your reference checks, you will be far more likely to hire the right person for the job.
"Most perspective employees will give you a reference list of people who will say only good things about them," says Doug White. "One of the things we suggest is to get to the next level in your reference checks."
During your discussion with a professional reference ask questions like, "Who else do you know who worked with John and would be aware of how he works?" Or, "who was John's supervisor?" Find your way to second and third levels to get a more candid opinion.
The Whites also recommend asking very specific questions during your reference checks. Rather than, "was John a good employee?" ask "can you describe how you believe John interacted with customers?"
Once you find your ideal employees you must know how to manage them. This is another sticking point to successful growth according to the Whites. "You must set appropriate goals for your employees," says Doug White. "And you must have a plan to achieve the goals. It's best to allow your employee to develop this plan and review it with them. " But your employees will need the right tools and training to achieve optimal performance. Make sure to review what these are and how you can successfully provide and implement your plan to support employees. And, of course, assessing and communicating your employee's performance on a regular basis will keep you both on top of things.
In their recent book, Let Go To GROW, the Doug and Polly White further explore this and other processes that help businesses transition from one stage to the next.
"Most small business people wear many hats and struggle to find time to accomplish all of their work," says Polly. "If you are spending a lot of time on one activity, trying to make it perfect, you can't be spending time on other tasks that may also be important to your business success."
For more from the Whites, tune into my recent interview with them.