To hire your first staff is a very sensitive thing to do. You are about to trust people you don’t really know with your business, and it takes courage to do that. The recruitment process is a very tedious one and the staff you have will determine to a large extent if your business will succeed or fail. You definitely need what will serve as guidelines to hiring your first staff if you want to be on the safe side.
In sincerity, small businesses often don’t need too many staff. In fact, at the beginning you are likely going to be a Jack of all trade, and still a master of all.
I used to be the Jack of all Trade. . .
When I started my last FMCG retail business a few years ago, I was everything for the first few months. I was an accountant, business administrator, cleaner, sales rep, marketing executive, cashier, procurement officer, office assistant, and customer care officer. I was everything to everybody that had anything to do with my business.
It was stressful, I must confess.
. . .Until the day I broke down
I remember the day I finally broke down. I had just made some deliveries to some high profile customers and immediately I got back to my business premises and parked my vehicle, I literally started shaking and couldn’t stand again.
It was so sudden. But I cannot deny the fact that I saw it coming. I mean, smart entrepreneurs have a way to balance themselves so they can work insanely hard and still not break down. I neglected that.
But when I got back to my feet, I had to get smart about my business. Smart entrepreneurs don’t do everything themselves especially when their start-ups start growing and expanding.
They either employ staff to be on ground full time, or they hire adhoc staff. But the important thing is to have people to effectively delegate things to so you can focus more on your job as the CEO.
The first set of staff you hire has an impact effect on the rate at which your business grows. And like they say, “there is no second chance for a first impression. They help create the first impression of your startup, so they need to be chosen carefully.
Presently, I have quite a number of staff working with me, and they make my job a lot easier. But things wouldn’t have been the way they are now if I had just gone out and employed just about anyone that caught my fancy. I sought out for what was working, applied them, and they worked for me.
Not to worry, they will work for you too. They are 7 startup guidelines you should abide as you hire your first staff:
- Ask Yourself If You Really Need To Hire Your FIrst Staff Just Yet
Committing to an employee comes with a lot of responsibility and you must consider if you are willing and able to shoulder them just yet. There are employee expectations and entitlements as well as legal expectations on any employer of labor that you may choose to sidestep for the time being.
You will need to consider the jobs that need to be done quite often and consider if they are jobs that can be outsourced or done by free lancers. Usually, taking these other channels may help save you some money.
For instance, though I have a number of staff working with me here on MSC, I equally have a number of free lancers remotely working with me too. They are independent contractors, and it makes things a bit easier for me still.
2. Don’t Make Advertising the Position Your First Resort
I know that the traditional thing to do when you want to hire your first staff is to advertise the position on newspapers, posters or some online platform. But the effect of such advertisements may bring an even bigger problem than the problem of a lack of staff; a deluge of resumes.
As a start-up you might not have the adequate resources to sift through a load of CV’s. And when you do, you will be a bit confused.
Moreover, you may end up making your decisions based on certain qualifications that should not be your priority at the time.
A surer bet to finding loyal staff at this crucial stage is through business networking. Ask for referrals from your friends, industry colleagues and advisers. If you get a referral from one of your advisers or colleagues, they’ve already saved you some employee screening work.
You could also invite people you know personally and whose capacity you are sure of. These are people you know to be daring, and who you can trust to go on the adventure of building the business with you.
Try them out first. You may be surprised to see that what you are looking for outside is right inside the house with you.
3. Don’t Trust Your Guts
I know we always like to think that our guts and instincts have some spiritual precision. Personally I don’t think they do. Having a gut feeling about someone is definitely not enough reason to hire him/her.
If you are about to hire your first as a small startup, you will find out that it is like adopting a child into a family. And with the rise in terror acts, fraud resumes and immigration, you might want to do as much background check as is legal to do.
Ask the candidate questions that reveal his true character, and not primarily his qualifications. This is because in a small business, the staffs are almost as close as family to the employers. And a certain kind of character and behavior may not quite fit into your business family.
4. Don’t Be Swayed By the Big Credentials
It’s rare to see a world class football player succeed in the lower leagues and there is a reason to it; the rules are different.
People with big credentials and who have worked with bigger businesses and companies in your industry or other industries may not be a great fit even if they have referrals from Warren Buffet.
Most times, they will find it difficult fitting in. And when they finally get around trying to fit in, they may start challenging everything you put in place because they ‘know a better way of doing it’.
And it is not as if they are all out to undermine you. It is not really their fault that they have a problem with lots of things you do.
You see, bigger companies are more bureaucratic and have rules. Their staffs are usually streamlined in their functions and this is quite different from what you need at this time.
So, when you want to hire your first staff, put more consideration in flexible people who can do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
5. You don’t Necessarily Need an Interview
Interviews with the whole shirt and tie and face to face table setting might be unnecessary to get your very first staff members. This may sound a bit weird, but I am not suggesting that you hire without checking out the applicants.
Formal interviews and every other form of traditional formality has a way of bringing out the best responses from the applicant. What you need now are not the best responses, but sincere responses.
If these people were referred by advisors, colleagues or friends, then it may be a better approach to go out to lunch or to meet on neutral or unthreatening ground. At such, the applicant won’t feel the need to impress and you can be sure of what you are getting.
6. Look For Raw Ability Not Refined Charisma
Find real people… these are those you will delight working with as a start-up. Those whose response to “what are your weaknesses?” is “I am just too awesome!” are not what you need now. I am not suggesting that you hire a mediocre. Never, you need the best hands!
How do you get the best? Ask direct questions during your interview. For instance, you should ask “Can you handle a Crane?” not “what is your driving experience?”
It is always better if there is a way for the applicants to actually show you what they can do.
For instance when I was looking out for new writers, I went straight to the point and gave them topics to work on. I gave them assignments based on the kind of responsibilities their jobs would require. And from their performance I knew who I should take and who I should drop irrespective of what their CVs said.
You should do something similar. That way you will know what raw abilities the person has and you don’t employ someone that needs hand holding after showing up with a lot of charisma and a pretty CV.
7. Don’t Veil your company’s Vision
I know you think that you just need someone who will get the job done, but at this critical time what you need is more than that. You need people who believe the same things you believe about the direction of your business.
This must be at the forefront of your mind as you screen candidates.
Your vision can help you screen questions that you ask as a means to illicit sincere responses. An employee committed to the vision is loyal as a matter of conviction, not salary. What more can a start-up hope for?
Business strategy and Loads of experience are key at certain points in a business, but at the very beginnings, openness, sincerity and loyalty should win out every time.