When first starting a new company it often requires you to wear a lot of different hats. However, once a startup begins to grow, making it successful becomes a team effort.
To hire the right people for your new startup, it is just as essential as having a great product or idea. At the end of the day, it’s people that make a company successful.
So when is the right time to startup hiring?
Being busy is not enough.
Just because you are always busy, doesn’t mean you are ready to hire. You have to be busy with the right kind of tasks. Tasks that are repeatable. However, even repeatable tasks can often be “busy work” that don’t contribute a whole lot to the business.
That’s why it important to first figure out the high-level processes and strategies that produce results. Then, write those down into daily and weekly tasks that can ultimately be delegated to an employee.
Now let’s look at the actionable steps you can take to get to employee #1.
Step 1: Outline your Core Values
The core values of a successful company are much more than a marketing ploy for customers; they are a definition of what the company stands for and what its mission is. You need to hire people who reflect these values.
you will need to carefully define what you want your company to be,. You want to envision what you want the atmosphere at the office to be like, and what the ultimate mission of your company is. Once you’ve defined these core values, you will have a better idea of the people you want to hire and will want to find those who are excited about moving the company mission forward.
Step 2: Standardize the work
Before you begin to hammer out processes and procedures, you need to standardize the work itself.
That means tweaking your services so that they are more focused on doing one (or just a few) things well and delivering that service again and again.
Step 3: Document Procedures
Once you’ve nailed down your business model and services you’re delivering; you are now ready to begin documenting procedures.
Document early and document often. You want to get each repeatable process out of your head and into a documented standard operating procedure.
A few important tips:
Begin this practice before you begin to hire.
At first, you’re documenting the procedure for yourself . This helps you refine the steps and also enables you to practice the “systems” mindset.
Start simple. Just a quick bullet list of steps is a good start. Don’t try to make it perfect., you can (and will) improve and expand the procedure time and time again- especially as your company grows. Just start with something.
Keep a standardized format for all procedures- a procedure for creating procedures. You don’t want them scattered across several apps, with varying formats and styles.
Google Docs is a perfect tool for this, it is easy to edit/update and share with your team and contractors. Every procedure gets its own doc. Every process is cataloged in a master spreadsheet and organized by category (marketing, support, administrative, etc.).
Step 4: List your 1st employee’s tasks before hiring them
A process that I have begun testing out is making a board for each employee in Trello. Within that board, create three lists:
To Do – Things this person is working on or will work on soon. These change from week to week.
Repeating – Things this person does every week, like clockwork. Everybody has a few of these.
Ongoing – Things this person can do whenever they have nothing else to work on. “Filler” work, but productive work nonetheless.
This is very handy for keeping track of what the team is working on, and how busy someone is.
Don’t have any employees yet? Even better, you should actually start tracking the workload of an employee before that person even exists!
I learned this from a mentor last year, create a board in Trello months before I hire an employee. During that time, I slowly begin to fill it up with tasks that I’d eventually plan to delegate to this person, once they’re hired. At first, it only contains a few tasks, but once those tasks begin to grow into lists of tasks, it is now time to start looking for someone.
Sidenote: This isn’t just for hiring your first employee. I do it for every position I plan to hire for.
Step 5: 20 Hour Rule
So when are you actually ready to hire the person?
I think a good rule of thumb is 20 hours. Once you’ve listed 20 hours worth of repeatable tasks — things they can do week after week — you’re about ready to fill that role, at least on a part-time basis.
Remember: You are not looking for tasks they can do this week only. You must have repeatable work for them to take on. You don’t want to make the mistake of hiring someone because you are busy right now, without thinking about the ongoing workload (or lack thereof).
Step 6: Founder, now it’s time to focus on growth
This is an important step that often goes overlooked because you’re so focused on figuring out what your new employee will be doing: Plan what you will be doing after bringing on an employee.
You’re not hiring just because you’re too busy. You are hiring because you need to work on your business and on growing your business.
So what will you be doing, while your employee is covering the workload that used to occupy your time? How will you use that time to grow the business?
Here are a few ideas:
Talk to more customers
Write a new email marketing campaign
Build the product or feature your customers have been asking for
Optimize your landing pages and run an A/B test.
Write more procedures
Step 7: The Financials
So you’ve got 20 hours of repeatable work outline, you created your procedures and you are aligned with values. You’re excited about all the new initiatives you plan to push forward as your team grows. Let’s do this!
Not so fast… There’s the whole money aspect. Can your business afford to hire an employee yet?
If the answer is no, here are a few tips for bootstrappers to ease the financial burden of hiring early on:
Everybody works remotely, which can lower costs.
Start with part-time. You can always increase over time.
Start with contractors. Hire on a project basis. This will help you learn how to manage, delegate, and collaborate with teammates before having employees on a regular basis.
Step 8: The First Hire.
OK, now you’re ready to pull the trigger. When it comes to interviewing and evaluating candidates, I will discuss that in more detail in one of my next articles.
But I will tell you the one thing I look for in every person that I hire (no matter what the role is). I look at their communication skills. If you can speak, type and write with clarity, and show that you listen and ask the right questions, that add some additional points to my list.
Step 9: Planning the first week
The first week will be spent training.
If your business is on the web, have them read through every page on your website, support site and marketing materials. Then discuss and answer any questions they may have for you. This will help them learn about the product and how your team communicates and presents it inside and out.
Also, have them review and read through your customer support tickets, this will allow them to get a feel for what your customers say and how we answer their questions.
Now, have them use your product- every aspect of it.
Now depending on the role, have them shadow you or a team member. Have them discuss and review any questions they may have after doing this practice.
Step 10: Week 2 and so on
By the 2nd week, to make this most successful, have them begin working on real tasks. This could be actual customer calls or emails, or preparing an email blast or start helping with social media.
That first-week training will only take them so far. They don’t truly learn the job until they’re thrown into the mix.
Prepare yourself and expect that there will be some hiccups and errors at first. If there aren’t, then you’re probably not giving them enough meaningful work. To be honest, you should want new employees to make a few mistakes early on, so that they can thoroughly learn why something went wrong, and how to get it right next time.
Growing your team in the early days is incredibly exciting. As you begin to hire, your own role will begin to change more than ever before, but now you can also start to more focus on those key areas that you need to help scale and grow the company.
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