How to Know When to Grow the Team?

November 9, 2022

You‘ve been thinking it may be time to grow the team, but that's equally a scary and exciting decision that better be timed right. So how do you know it's time to make the jump?


Those are the options most small agency owners will face sometime along the journey of their growing business.

You know this is you, if …

  • You are turning down work you really would want to sink your teeth in, but you just can’t fit it in. 
  • You can see potential business opportunities, but how are you going to fit that into your already chocka schedule?
  • Financials, paperwork, non-essential meetings, your private time, sleep… it’s suffering.
  • Your company’s growth has halted to a stand-still.
  • Your clients can’t get hold of you.
  • And a freelancer is not cutting the mustard.

We all know the answer. It’s obvious, isn’t it?


Or is it?

There may be plenty of signs telling you need a new staff member, but the flip side of the coin is that hiring a new employee is scary!

Being responsible for somebody to be able to put food on the table is no small feat. I mean, you could be able to do it now. But what about in 3 months for now?

How To Know When To Hire An Employee?

I’ve been in business for a long time, and it still freaks me out.


But guess what?


There is a saying in business that you should never hire when you’re desperate. You hire a new employee before you’re ready. And I totally subscribe to that idea.

But you also can’t jump in like a fool.


Over the years, I’ve developed a strategy in deciding when it is time for the next hire.
I’ll use my business as an example to explain the process. And for this, I need to give you a little bit of background.

My Agency In A Nutshell

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I am the owner of a small but successful event management agency. I’ve honed in on my niche, and I am quite picky in the clients I take on.

My team comprises of 3 employees doing the client delivery work and another 3 employees who do non-client delivery work. The consequence of having a small team (which I consider us to be) is that we are limited in the amount of work we can take on.

Over the years, I have fine-tuned a system that helps us plot out when the event dates are hitting the timeline. This ensures I'm not overcrowding the calendar. I do this so that we can deliver the events without putting too much pressure on the team.

… Until July 2022.

I had built a pipeline of leads, and I knew it was beyond what the current team could cope with.

It was time to grow the team! Or at least consider it…

Planning System 1: Before you decide to grow your team, know what’s coming down the pipeline.

When to hire new employees for a small business?

Before you can decide, you need to have a clear idea of your timeline. And by this I mean the timeline of when clients want the work done.

This is how I visualise my sales pipeline for my agency:

The first step in the sales process is a discovery call, or what I call a ‘60 Minute Planning Call’. During this call, I listen to the clients' goals and ideas. I gauge if this is a job that fits our niche, our values, etc.

If the answer is yes, I schedule the event on the calendar. Next, I create a proposal. If the clients come back with a go-ahead, the scheduled event in my calendar changes colour; from ‘maybe’ to a solid ‘It’s on’.

Visualising my pipeline like this tells me at a glance what the coming months will look like. How many calls have I got coming into my calendar? How many proposals have I made? And how many events have received the nod?

In July, I knew that come November sh*t was going to hit the fan, unless I did something about it.

But this timeline in itself was not enough to pull the trigger on expanding the team.

I needed more information!

Planning System 2: Have an accountability chart at the ready.

It was time to pull out the accountability chart for my agency.

An accountability chart maps ownership of responsibilities in your business. It lists tasks that need to be covered and puts a name next to it. As your business grows, that name changes.

The advantage of this is that there is always clarity about who is responsible for a certain task or who is allowed to sign off on decisions. It avoids the ‘that’s not my job’ or the ‘I thought you were doing that’. It also prevents you from being the bottleneck in your business.

But having an accountability chart also means it is very easy to scale, because a good accountability chart is not just a snapshot of what your business looks like as it is now. But also what you will need in 3 years from now. Thanks to the accountability chart, I knew it stretched my current employees to capacity, and they weren’t able to take on the extra work.

So in July, I not only knew that I needed to hire a new employee. But I also knew what the job description needed to be.

Planning System 3: When is the right time to hire employees? Do the maths!

So… do we have sufficient information to decide on when to hire an employee?

This is where we stand:

System 1 tells me I have a lot of work lined up and I need to think about a new hire. It also gives me an idea about the timeline.
Thanks to system 2, I know my team is stretched to capacity. But I also have some insight into who the new hire should be.

The combination of information I get from System 1 and 2 brings me to system 3: when should you place the job ad?

It’s easy to reverse engineer.

  • I need to allow 2 weeks for the job applications to come in, after the ad has gone up. 
  • I need 1 week to assess the applications and another week to do the interviews.
  • Once I have settled on a hire, here in Aotearoa New Zealand, employees usually need to give 2 to 4 weeks’ notice with their current employer.
  • Then I add some extra time to allow for the unexpected. (I’ve learned to do this the hard way.)

All this tells me … I need to place the job ad about 2 to 4 months before it’ll be crunch time.

Et voila…


Scary? Yes!

BUT I completely rationalised my decision process, so I can stop the little voice in my head trying to chicken out on a scary but necessary decision.

Need Help?

But what if you don’t have an accountability chart? Or what if your pipeline is very hot and cold? And what if you need help with your scale strategy in general before you can contemplate growing the team?

I'm here to help you! You can book
A Free 60 Minute Scale Strategy Session with me. It's obligation free.

We will look at the current situation in your business. We'll identify what's working and what's not. And we'll take a look at the number one bottleneck, restricting your growth and holding you back from scaling.

Let’s find out, shall we?

I mean, what do you have to lose other than an hour of your time?

Take this FREE 2-minute Quiz

Discover how to use your unique personality to systematise and streamline your digital service business or agency so you can scale without sacrifice (do more and work less!)

Subscribe on your favourite Podcast player