Guest post by Su-Mari Du Bruyn, Co-Founder of Adapt To Change
Congratulations! Your business has grown and you have finally reached that step on your success ladder where you are looking at expanding your team to grow. Here are some tips to help you bring that first staff member on board:
1) Do not over invest too soon
Make sure that you can reliably and consistently afford to have this additional staff member on board. The last thing you want is to have invested all of this time and effort, only to have to let the person go in month seven.
2) Document key processes
If your new team member will be responsible for answering the phone and taking new orders from customers, make sure that you have whatever they will need ready for them in advance. Although you know your business like the back of your hand, remember that the same is not necessarily true for this person. If you have two types of products and each are available in five colours, you can create a user friendly order form which reflects all the relevant options. When someone phones to place an order, the new recruit can use the order form to ask all the right questions and record all the relevant requirements in a structured way. Whatever tasks you are going to ask this person to perform – create the documentation first. This is a critical step that can prevent a lot of mistakes and frustration and help your new team member to start adding value much faster.
3) Do not rush into anything
Do your due diligence – be very thorough. Appointing the wrong person can be very costly to your business. Your recruitment process should not just include a question and answer interview, but also a practical assessment. Consider what you will be expecting from this individual and simulate an environment to test how they would perform in practice. You may want to ask the secretary to type up a specific document in front of you so that you can see how accurately and fast she is able to type. You may want to have a friend call in as an irate customer and have the person you are assessing take that call. There are practical scenarios that you can create to test whether the prospective employee is inclined to take initiative, can communicate assertively without being abrasive, have attention to detail, etc.
4) Be clear on your expectations and theirs
Make sure that you clarify your expectations in advance. As much as the interview process is an opportunity for you to decide whether an individual will be a good fit for your business, it should also be an opportunity for them to develop an understanding of what you are expecting and whether your business is a good fit for them. If you will expect them to be flexible in their working hours, state that up front. If it involves a lot of administrative work and paper work, clear it with them up front. If they cannot be out of the office for lunch at the same time as you, then make sure that they know that up front. Consider if and how you can accommodate their expectations and interests. If someone loves to write, then maybe they can contribute to your newsletter. Contributing will make being part of your team a much more rewarding experience and as a result they will become a real part of your business and loyal to it.
5) Get an understanding of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses
A good team is not made up out of duplicates. It can be incredibly valuable for a company to appoint someone who brings some new and different ideas into the business. Be careful though! Your differences must be complimentary and make you stronger. If the role you are recruiting is someone who will be dealing directly with clients, you will probably be looking for someone who is confident, comes across as friendly, is reliable and professional, etc. Those could very well be the same characteristics as what you have and that is not wrong. Do not select somebody that is different only for the sake of diversity. However if this person is also very good at organizing and you are not, this could be a difference between you, that makes your business stronger.
6) Keep it legal
Make sure that from a legal aspect you are properly covered and that you have the necessary documentation in place to protect your business. This does not have to become a bureaucratic nightmare, but having the basics in place right from the start can save you a lot of headache later on.
7) Allow them to contribute
Once you have made your recruitment decision, allow this person to be able to bring their strengths on board. Do not expect them to do absolutely everything in exactly the same way as you would have done. This does not mean that just anything goes, but one of the most difficult things for solo-preneurs, is to let go of things they were used to doing themselves before. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can perform a specific task faster. If you do not allow your staff to learn, to help you and actually take on specific tasks, on your behalf, does it make sense to pay them? This transition can be made a lot easier if you already have some new projects lined up to take up your new found free time.
8) Let them feel welcome
Send out an introduction to your customers and on your social media so that your loyal fans do not become alarmed when they phone and a strange voice suddenly answers the phone and tells them that you are not available.
9) Practice finding the good!
In the beginning, especially when you are trying to let go and find your new rhythm, you can unintentionally be coming across as very critical, fault finding and unwelcoming. Make sure to look for all the good things this person is doing and say thank you!
10) Deal with mistakes
Do not correct mistakes made by your staff on their behalf, without addressing it with them just to avoid upsetting the family feeling you have in the office. You are doing them and yourself an injustice.
11) Be careful of implementing things when you are small that you cannot sustain when you become big
It is a good idea to try and reward excellent performance in some way. If you are rewarded (or not) whether you are performing or not, then you have no incentive to perform well. This does not mean that your reward has to be a financial one. Setting goals that you can work towards as a team is a great way to approach this. For example, once the business has made its first million, we will buy a Cuppa-chino maker for the office. Giving an individual a big financial reward may not be sustainable as your team continuous to grow in future. Changing or reducing a reward at a later stage can make employees feel disgruntled and make them despise their colleagues or even worse, sabotage your growth efforts in future.
Expanding your team with the right people can make a wonderful positive difference when done right!