The Art of Hiring For a Small Business

May 25, 2022

Success in business means embracing your uniqueness. Obviously, that approach also applies to the process of hiring for a small business and building your team. But how?

Business is going well and you’ve decided it’s time to grow your team beyond the initial solopreneur stage. Exciting times. But that also means…IT’S HIRING TIME! 😱
For most entrepreneurs, that’s intimidating. Let’s admit it, very few of us have training in hiring for a small business or in building a team from the ground up.
So you do what anybody does when they face a challenge… and, sure enough, Mr Google spits out a plan.
Step 1 is… hiring a virtual assistant
Step 2 is… hiring a project manager
Step 3…  hiring the client delivery person
…or not really?

Hiring For A Small Business…Your Way

There’s no shortage of programs and formulas that tell you the stages of building our team. And it’s good to look at them and to learn from them. But ultimately … is that actually what works for you?
If you want to run a BUSINESS YOUR WAY, surely that also means… HIRING YOUR WAY?!
If there is one person to ask how to hire employees, it’s Paula Maidens; hiring and leadership coach extraordinaire.
Paula and I are kindred spirits in that neither of us believe in a one -size fits all solution for running a business. We both believe that success means embracing your uniqueness and individuality.
Hiring employees for your small business falls under that exact umbrella.

Paula Maidens, The Hiring Coach

But let’s rewind. Who’s Paula, you ask?
With a background in HR consultancy, Paula is on a mission to help businesses achieve their goals without the lumps and bumps that usually come with growing and hiring teams. Her skills and experience help build rockstar teams, …but not as you know it.
Rather than ‘handing out the fish’ like many recruitment agencies do, she found it was so much more empowering to ‘teach her clients how to fish’.
So, of course, I wanted to know EVERYTHING that’s in her head. I fired off the questions. These are Paula’s answers.

Hiring For A Small Business: Who Should Be Your First Hire?

For most businesses, the first hire is someone who assists you.
This is an obvious place to start because repeatable tasks, the things you do all the time and don’t need your magic touch, are easy to hand over.
Often solopreneurs find it difficult to release control, so I recommend to screen-record what you are doing as you are doing it, and then use that as a manual.
‘Just do it like this; and this is when I want you to do it. ‘  
Solopreneurs taking their first step in building a great team find this works for them, because they still keep tight control over what goes on in their business.
The other thing to consider handing over at this stage, apart from repeatable tasks, are things you that don’t bring you joy or you’re not good at.

Stages Of Building A Team: When Do You Hand Over Client Work?

Ultimately, that’s your choice!
It all depends on how much you enjoy client work vs. the other tasks that are part of your workload  (like marketing, admin, business development, etc.)
Imagine you decide you want to spend about 70% of your time doing client work. Once you reach that capacity, you have a decision to make: 

Do you want to grow by taking on more clients? In that case, you need to hire somebody who can help you with client work.
Do you choose NOT to take on more clients and increase the prices for your services and grow your business in that way?
When you decide to hire a person, again, you can go 2 ways:

You can take on somebody who does what you do, and hand over part of your clients in full.  
You take on somebody who supports you, and you both work on the same client. In that case, you need to get clear on what you want the new person to do. How do you want them to do it? What are the skills and personality you need that person to have?
Which brings us to creating a job description.

How Do You Create A Job Description?

We’re back to hiring for a small business in your unique way.
See, there is a risk in blindly adopting commonly used job titles and, as a consequence, the job content that usually goes with them (or that people assume goes with them). Don’t get me wrong, there’s value in looking at how other business owners fill a role, but it would be wrong to assume that’s what YOU need.
Which begs the question: what is it you need?
To hire successfully, you need to start with a blank piece of paper and put down all the things that you would like somebody to do for you. I tell my clients to close your eyes and think about 12 months from now when they are celebrating the success of the new person they have brought onboard. Then think about…

  • What have they done?
  • What have taken off your hands?
  • What have they started?
  • Are they meeting with you often? Or hardly ever?
  • Are they bringing you new ideas?
  • Has somebody created processes?
  • Has somebody made it so you never have to check your emails?
  • Is somebody organising your team so you only have to attend a team meeting once a month?
  • ….

You may be able to create a role that has all these things in it. But then again, it may not be possible to pour all these tasks in one role. You may have to go through a few stages of building a team. In this case, you have to decide on your initial person and what you will call that person?

Most Common Business Challenges When Managing A Team

Once we have the right team on board, we need to look at how we manage our team. It’s just as important as the hiring process.  
Ultimately, you want your team to run your business rather than needing your constant involvement. In the early stages, you want people to assist you. But once you have a few full-timers on board, you can’t just offload tasks.
At this stage, it’s important to empower people to own elements of your business, so people aren’t waiting for you to instruct them or hand over a task. This requires defined roles and well-oiled systems and processes, so people do what they need to do when they need to do it without you having to worry about it.
Often I notice resistance with systemisation, because as entrepreneurs we like freedom. I often have to explain that putting systems in place is the key to the freedom we crave. At this stage, you want people to own their role, so your business can run itself, and that comes from systems and processes.

What Are The Most Common Business Challenges You Encounter? 

I can think of a few.
The first one that comes to mind is hiring too late.
When we hire at a time when we are very stressed, we don’t make the best decisions. So my biggest recommendation is to hire before you’re drowning. There’s an art to hiring a great team. So take the time to hire, and allow the learning process to develop.
What that means is 3-fold. I call it the 3C’s to a successful hire:

  • Clarity: knowing who you need
  • Confidence: knowing how to interview and if the person is right for you
  • Commitment: doubling down on training and investing the time so the person is successful.

The second of the growing business challenges I encounter has more to do with the onboarding process, but ties in with the third C.
Setting clear expectations of what you want the person to do is one of the crucial steps in the hiring process. I tell my clients to over-communicate. But also to realise that things won’t be perfect from the first go. Rather, you should anticipate a training period where lessons need to be learned on both ends.
If things don’t go perfectly, lean in with curiosity rather than furiosity. Instead of  getting angry, find out what happened. How come they assumed this wrongly? Why did that happen? Once you know what went wrong, you adjust the process.

Final Question: What Are Your Ultimate 3 Pieces Of Wisdom?

If you’re a business provider looking at building a great team, my 3 pieces of wisdom are:

  • Take the time to hire really well for your uniqueness.
  • Look for ways to systemize. (Just try it, ok!?)
  • Have the difficult conversations early on. It will make things a lot easier down the track.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll agree that there’s a fair amount of reflection that goes into hiring for a small business before you can place the first job ad. The obvious place to start, of course, is our own uniqueness as a leader. It goes to the heart of the biggest growing business challenges you will face.
But help is just a click away! Paula is acutely aware of the need for self-reflection, your lack of time, and the trickle-down effect it has on your success as an entrepreneur, so she put together a quiz to help you figure out your personality as a leader.
I take it that, like me, you can’t get enough of Paula’s tips and guidelines. If that’s the case, the podcast is your next stop. Plug in the earphones and drink up some more wisdom from the hiring expert who’s learned it and lived it, and is now on a mission to teach you!
But also, don’t forget to talk to me (send me an email or find me on Instagram!) What are your thoughts and ideas on hiring and team building? I want to know!

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