Hiring Help for Your Small Business


Q: How do I know my business is ready to hire help, and what’s the best way to go about doing it?


A: When you start a small business, you may be the one to wear all the hats.  You answer phones, fill orders, provide a service, process payments, answer emails, do basic taxes, clean and possibly run payroll… It might be manageable for a little bit of time, until your business grows, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to do all of these jobs as you get bigger.  And although perhaps you could wear all the hats for a while, it might not be worth it.  This is especially true if you don’t enjoy the work, are overwhelmed with the work volume or just need to balance family/personal time.

I often say to first delegate the jobs you enjoy the least.  For me, that was finding someone to do my accounting.  When I was at the point where I’d rather clean the toilets than look at numbers, I knew that it was time to hire someone to do the accounting for me.

Hiring people to do what you do best is very hard.  It’s like having a baby and trusting someone to take care of that baby as well as you.  No one can do that, but letting go of the control, and the need for perfection, is necessary.  Check in with your employees, but do not hover.  Give them the space to flourish within your comfort zone.

When being really busy with so many different things interferes with your customer’s experience, it is definitely time to get some office help.  I’ve gone to a few businesses and felt very uncomfortable with the fact that I was getting my hair cut or my eyebrows threaded while the person doing it was on the phone the entire time.  I never went back to those businesses.

It’s best to write out the qualities of your ideal employee.  Don’t compromise on too much, as your customers will lose out.  For my business, the customer experience is more important than the technical skill, so I would rather hire someone with less skill and more personality.  A skill can be taught with practice, but not so with personality.

Finding that right employee is tough.  It’s best to ask people you know to recommend someone.  Public forums can be great, or you can list the job on Indeed or another job-listing page.  You might have to sift through a lot.  For me, it’s very important that I hire people who can pay attention to details.  So, if in my job description, I state that the candidate must be detail-oriented, and then I say to “please correspond by email only”, and the person calls/messages/texts, I take it as a sign that the person is not detail-oriented, and therefore, not what I’m looking for.

One of the most important things I noticed about hiring employees is trusting your intuition.  If you have a funny feeling inside, like a little niggling voice in your head –LISTEN TO IT!  Not trusting my intuition, or feeling bad saying no to hiring someone, has been my biggest mistake.  You don’t even need a reason for it if it does not feel right.

I would write a document of what your expectations are for the person you hire, and have them sign it, so that it’s very clear what the job entails.  You can do a quarterly review with your hire and see if he/she’s meeting them.  If he/she’s consistently forgetting details, running late, etc., despite multiple requests to shape up, your business can do better than him/her, so it would probably be best to let him/her go.

When hiring an accountant or other professional, take the time to meet with him/her and see if your personality and values mesh well.  If they do not, move on.  I’ve been through multiple accountants.  For me, communication is very important for anyone I hire, so if someone is consistently slow to communicate, ignores my questions or makes me feel stupid for asking, then it is time to move on to someone else.  Your employees are a direct reflection of you and your business, so pick them wisely.

A wonderful idea for outsourcing calls/work is to use a virtual business service.  Your personal assistant will be trained by you. He/She will schedule your appointments, answer frequently asked questions and do any assigned tasks.  This has freed my life up tremendously. The value for your money is great, even better than hiring local help.  You only pay for the actual hours the person answers the phone, and you don’t have to provide benefits or pay employee taxes.

It’s easy to let the business take over your life. Try to remember to let your business work for you, not you for it.  This is how you will avoid burnout and allow your business to flourish and run effectively.  It’s how you will have success in the long run.

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Devorah Baron is an entrepreneur and has run a prenatal 3D ultrasound business for 13 years. She is a financial counselor for Mesila of Baltimore. In the past she has been a JWE (Jewish Women Entrepreneur) leader in Baltimore and is currently a volunteer business adviser, as well as a business strategy coach.