As I wrote recently, building a great team is essential to having a great business. Your team starts with your first hire, and many new entrepreneurs bring that person on right away. A recent SurePayroll survey found 70 percent of small business owners make their first hire immediately after starting the business or within a few months.
There's nothing wrong, however, with hiring slowly. In fact, I recommend it. There are many costs associated with turnover, including the time and energy it takes to hire, possible reputational damage if an employee deals with customers, and the burden of having to repeat the process. You want to get it right the first time.
So before you dive in, here are the five most important things to think about when you make your first hire:
1. Look for fit, not just skills.
When a candidate comes in with a strong resume, it's easy to get caught up admiring her experience and abilities. While that's all well and good, you need to make sure she'll work and get along well with you, especially when she's your only employee. If you like a loose atmosphere, you may not want someone too buttoned up. If you wear a shirt and tie to work everyday, you might think twice about hiring someone who shows up for the interview in jeans.
2. Do background and reference checks.
When a candidate looks great on paper, it may be tempting to take his resume for granted. But you need to call references, run background checks, and even have him do some assessments. (My favorite is the McQuaig.) You're investing a lot in this person; you must be certain he's telling the truth.
3. If you're only hiring one, play the odds.
When you make your first hires is not the time to take big risks. If you're considering someone, for instance, who would have an hour-and-a-half commute for an entry-level job, you might want to think again. If you're hiring your only sales person, make sure he has solid sales experience. You can take bigger risks when you're hiring a larger number of people.
4. Balance what you need today with what you might need tomorrow.
A first hire should have a greater degree of flexibility than a fifth person in that same role. It's likely that your first hire's role will change slightly or even dramatically as your business grows. As best you can, make sure you're on the lookout for people who are willing and ready to adapt.
5. Comply with tax laws.
Once you sign up a new hire, be sure you do the right paper work. Is she an independent contractor or a W-2 employee? Do you know the difference? Are you familiar with wage and hour laws on whether your employee is eligible to be salaried or hourly? Seek help from your lawyer or accountant.
If you follow these guidelines, you'll increase your chances of hiring someone who will stay a while and meet your needs. Of course, nothing is guaranteed. If, in the unfortunate circumstance it does not work out with your first hire, don't be afraid to change course quickly.