Read this before you hire your first employee!

Read this before you hire your first employee!

When your small business grows, you will come to the point where it’s time to hire your first employee.  But… what are the things you need to consider to ensure you hire someone who is just the right “fit” for your company?

Prior Planning

The first thing you should do is to plan exactly what functions the new employee will fill.  For the purposes of this article, I am assuming you are a one person shop.  Up until now, you have done it all, but you have reached the point where you must have help.  So, sit down and make a list of all the functions in the company. Now rank them by putting the ones you love to do and are really good at on top. 

For instance your list could look like this:

  1. Marketing design
  2. Direct sales
  3. Customer service
  4. Customer research and email campaigns.
  5. Accounting
  6. Website maintenance

Now let’s say you pick the top 3.  These are the things you love doing above all else.  The bottom 3?  You can do them, but in truth, you’d be glad to unload them.

Bingo!  You’ve just created the job description for your new employee.

The next thing you should decide is how long it will take for the new employee to pay for themselves.  It’s always been my theory that hiring a new employee is not an expense, it’s a revenue producer.  Yes there is some upfront expense, but ultimately, employees should produce enough revenue to more than cover their salary, benefits, etc.   

Looking at our list above, it seems the revenue producing functions are located in the first 3 functions on the list:  Marketing design, direct sales, and customer service.  The second 3 functions, are mainly administrative, non-revenue producing functions.

So how is the new person going to produce enough revenue to pay for themselves?  By shifting those administrative functions away from you. This gives you more time to work directly with customers resulting in increased sales.   Increased sales means more revenue.

How long will this take?  Three months, six months, a year?  Here’s a tip.  Whatever time frame you decide upon, make that the probationary period. Why?  Because, if the new position doesn’t generate the revenue to pay for itself, you’re going to want out.  Pick a target and stick to it.  When the probationary period is up, was the goal reached?  The only answers are yes or no.

Here is the hard part.  Too often, in my opinion, when business owners hire their first employee, they develop a list of skills required for the job.  When they find someone appearing to possess those skills, they hire them.  Many times little or no consideration is given to the personality characteristics of the prospective employee.

If you are currently a one person show, personality considerations in hiring your first employee are critical.  It’s almost like getting married.  There’s going to be just you and this other person trapped in your place of work.  If you can’t get along, it’s going to be a living hell.

If your only measure of “the right fit” is whether or not you like the prospective employee, you could be making a big mistake.  Why?  Because we tend to like people who are just like ourselves.  Hiring another you is probably not what you need.  Remember you’re hiring someone to do stuff you dislike.

Social Styles

When I was in mortgage banking, I became fascinated as to why some mortgage loan officers were able to develop great relationships with Realtors and builders and some were not.  That’s when I discovered social styles.

Wilson Learning Corporation is a company that has interviewed over 2 million people world wide on this issue.  They discovered social behavior falls into the following  4 broad catagories:

1. Analytical

2. Driver

3. Amiable

4. Expressive

Approximately 25% of the population falls into each category.

Why is this important?  Because, each of these categories has certain behavioral styles and they don’t always get along with each other.

In hiring an employee, it’s very important to know these things:

  • What type of behavior pattern you fall into, and
  • What type of behavior pattern is best suited to the functions you want the employee to perform, and
  • How that pattern interacts with your own.

Think about it!  Understanding these behaviors not only applies to your employees but to your customers as well.  When my loan officers learned to understand these behavior types, their production went way up and so did their customer satisfaction scores.

This is so important that I urge you to read the book “The Social Styles Handbook” for yourself.  You can order it here.

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Larry Wilson and Learning Library WilsonTrade Paperback

(Full disclosure, I am a Powell’s Affiliate)

The 4 Behavior Styles

Here is a brief synopsis of the 4 Styles:

Analytical:  Think engineers, accountants, research scientist.  They are fact and detail driven. Task oriented.  They want to gather all the information before they make a decision. They only act when the outcome appears clear.   They interact well with Amiables and Drivers, but have nothing in common with Expressives.

Driver:  Think military types, business leaders, supervisors.  They like to take charge of a situation. They make quick decisions.  They love a challenge. Totally focused on results.  Very task oriented. They get along well with Analyticals and Expressives, but not Amiables.

(This is me.  I’m a classic Driver with some Analytic overtones. I had to learn how to get along with Amiables.)

Amiable:  Amiables are more people oriented. They are consensus builders.  They  want to make sure others are with them before they make a decision. They communicate trust.  They try hard to get along with everyone. They get along well with Analyticals and Expressives, but have nothing in common with Drivers.

Expressive:  Expressives are people oriented.  They are talkative and like an audience.  They are intuitive.  They are risk takers and competetive.  They inspire and motivate.  They get along with Amiables and Drivers, but not Analyticals.

Understanding these social styles will not only teach you about yourself, but you will also learn how best to approach and get along with others.  Stephen Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Covey, Stephen R. (2013-11-15). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (p. 247). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.)  Want to be an effective leader? You must first learn how to approach your employees in ways they understand best.

Let’s get back to our challenge.  If I use myself as an example I am a driver.  I like interacting with customers, but I want to hire someone to do the back office work.  From my perspective, my best choice is to find an Analytical.  They are detail oriented, tend to like the stuff I want them to do, and our social styles interact well.

Other Considerations

Here are some other things to think about:

  • How big do you want to grow?  In 5 years, do you see yourself with 3 employees or 100?
  • Do you want someone who will grow with you taking on more and more responsibility, or someone to fill the functions you outlined and that’s it?
  • Do you want someone who will tell you what you need to know, or only what you want to hear?
  • Do you want someone who does things on their own, or waits to be told?

The Interviews

The next task is to take all the information you’ve gathered about the position you’ve outlined.  Then design a series of questions you can ask a prospect to discover if they have the skills and desire to do the job.   

Do your best to find out what the prospective employee wants as well.  Is this just a job to them, or is it something more?  Where do they see themselves in five years?  If it’s not with you, that may be OK. Your own plans for growth may see this function changing or disappearing in that time.   Remember, it’s important they feel you have their interests at heart.

How many interviews does it take?  In my opinion at least two.

The first one should be about discovery.  You should discover all you can about them, and they should discover all they can about you. Now take a couple of days to think about your prospects.  Imagine how working with them would be over the next year.  How do you feel about the situation.  This is important.  Your gut should be saying yes! here.

The second interview is about numbers.  Lay out your plan. See how they react to it.  Are they excited, or do they get that “deer in the headlights” look on their face?  Talk about behavior styles.  Let them know about your style, and discuss your impression of theirs.  Discuss how the styles interact.  Get their buy in.  Be clear about the terms of the probationary period. Are there incentives you are willing to add on at the end such as a raise in pay?

The Hire

One thing I would like to mention is always have at least two candidates to compare.  Again take some time after the second interview.  Think about the candidates and how you feel about them.  Once you’ve settled on the best candidate, make the offer.

Here are the things you need to discuss:

  • Lay out clear expectations. Use numbers. The goal is to increase revenue by X in Y amount of time.
  • Get the new hire to buy in to the goals, or better yet set their own goal.  Include time frames. Remember the probationary period should be the same as the goal deadline.
  • Figure out a way to report results on a regular basis such as weekly or monthly.  Make the reporting period frequent enough to be meaningful.   Inspect what you expect.  It’s important to share results so they can see their progress and yours.
  • If they don’t make it, or it’s not working, be prepared to say goodbye.  The quicker the better.  Don’t hide this.  If they aren’t hitting the milestones, being let go should not come as a surprise.
  • If they don’t make it, find out why.  Was it your fault?  Were your expectations unreasonable?  Was the design of the plan wrong from the beginning?  Or, were they just not up to the task?  If the fault is yours, you should now have enough information to design the position better the next time around.

In Conclusion

When your business is small, getting employees who fit well in the organization is critical.  We’ve all been in situations where an employee  is misplaced in a position.  The results at best are an unhappy staff and at worst a hostile work environment.   

Finding someone who fits your organization’s mission and goals will make going to work a lot of fun.  Every day.

There’s an old saying (courtesy of my Mother), “Marry in haste, repent in leisure.”  This is true in hiring new staff as well. So, take your time, be thorough, and hire the best fit.

Comments are closed.
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons