For months I hustled, stayed lean and wore every single hat imaginable in business. After a few months too long, I began to feel the effects of being a lean entrepreneur, and honestly, was unsure how much longer I would maintain this level of effort and success.
I loved the challenge that building a business brought me, and knew, if I wanted to continue on this path, I would need a team for support.
Here are four things to recognize and prepare for prior to hiring your first employee.
1. Take inventory of your business and tasks.
Understand what tasks you are completing every day to better comprehend what needs the most attention and support for a new hire.
Spend one to two weeks listing out the actions that you complete every day, and how long they take. Then, sit down over a freshly brewed cup of coffee and bucket them into four categories: competent, incompetent, problem solving and forward thinking.
You will likely be surprised at how much of your time is being consumed with incompetent tasks. That is, actions that anyone could complete--taking orders, sending email confirmations, filing paperwork. This is what you need to get off your plate as quickly as possible.
When you release the tedious and mundane tasks that can be completed by someone you are free to focus on more forward-thinking projects and problem-solving strategies. It is time for you to build a bigger future for your business.
2. Understand the financial implication of employees.
It may be tempting to hire support immediately, but hold off on this until one thing happens-- you are making money.
Ensure that your business venture will be consistently profitable before bringing others in. As soon as you begin to profit and feel the tipping point of your personal capabilities, hire someone to take over the daily tasks.
Once you hit the tipping point of profitability, hire sooner rather than later, as you do not want to end up in a situation where you are constantly putting out fires instead of preparing for a safe future. Founders can suddenly become a huge block to their own business without stepping into hiring.
I hired my first person fairly quickly since I was still working full time and had a salary to support the investment. Making this first hire gave me the freedom to focus my few hours after work on strategic planning for growth, as opposed to simply keeping business stable. Your job as a new founder is to grow the business, not to be so deep in the weeds once it's profitable that it cannot thrive.
3. Create an onboarding process.
When you bring on employees, it is vital for them to be productive as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is by creating trainings, documentation or videos that outline how to complete their roles. These are assets you can use for future training, so invest in them!
The next time you go through the process of completing an invoice or fulfilling a customer's order, make a video with a description of how to do this. When you bring people on, they now have this information to reference and can even share with future employees. You will streamline the process and ensure that you no longer have to complete this simple task yourself.
Do this for anything that is repeatable and constant. Get these actions off your hands and into the hands of your new employee.
4. Set customers up for success.
The first employee you hire should be someone that ensures the expansion of your revenue. Determine what is going to systemize your process and make customers feel like they are being taken care of by your first employee.
For me, it was hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) from overseas using the freelance platform UpWork. They were in essence, a right-hand project manager who specifically managed customer service support and hiring customer service employees. If you do your hiring well, you'll find someone incredible at an affordable rate ($5-10/hour) in countries like the Philippines or India.
Teaching someone how to take care of customers is the absolute best way to make customers feel committed and an advocate for your business. Consider tying their performance with that to their income.
If you have reached a point where hiring employees is a true need-- Congratulations!
Prepare yourself financially, emotionally and strategically for this next phase in business. Hire the right person at the right time, and know you are on the path to success.