When a business grows, so does the headcount. And for a small business owner, it's generally a good problem to have.
You can try to outsource or hire an independent contractor to help you keep up with the growing demands on your time and skills, but depending on your line of work or the nature of your business, that may not be a viable option. (Contrary to popular belief, you can't accomplish everything online, at least not yet.)
No, you need hands-on help. So, it's time to bite the bullet and hang the "Help Wanted" sign in the window -- figuratively speaking, of course. But how do you expand your workforce without throwing your startup into disarray?
Here are three tips to help you manage hiring the first of what will one day hopefully become many new employees.
Go Legit Before Your First Hire
You can't just hire people, pay them with a wad of cash every two weeks and then lather, rinse, repeat. The U.S. government has pretty strict labor regulations in place in addition to rules that vary from state to state. Your accounting is about to get more complex thanks to payroll taxes, and suddenly you'll find yourself reporting to a bunch of labor agencies.
As you may have guessed, that means a lot of paperwork. Point your browser to the U.S. Small Business Administration's guide to setting up your business for your first employee. Sure, it's a daunting list, but there's no need to become discouraged. After all, thousands of businesses have done it before and many more will follow.
It's a process that starts with applying for an employment identification number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and ends with -- well, it never ends. It's your job to keep current on employee rights issues, new regulations and even minimum wage increases -- that is until you establish a human resources department to handle it for you.
Now that you have the government's blessing, it's time to work on a hiring strategy.
Clearly Defined Roles
In a startup environment, it's common for entrepreneurs to wear many hats. And that's OK. A tech startup's CEO may help balance the books after pounding out some code.
When making your first official hires, it's better to go with clearly defined roles. That means taking stock of the tasks that you need a hand with and creating a position in support of those needs.
Need help around the office? Then it's time for an assistant and/or an office manager. In general, you wouldn't ask this person to debug code or run the manufacturing equipment. Conversely, you wouldn't ask highly skilled developers to order office supplies or set up the conference room for a meeting.
Mind you, a little flexibility doesn't hurt and helping employees spread their wings can help you nurture your in-house talent. However, the point of this exercise is not to lock workers into rigid roles, but to get those managerial muscles working. Properly aligning your workforce with your startup's needs is an invaluable skill for businesses of all sizes.
What's Your Company Culture?
Another important factor to consider before making your first hire is your company's culture.
Before discussion turns to pay, perks and vacation time, even before the first interview, define your company's culture. What are the values, traditions and practices that shape you as a company? Is your culture something you want to preserve? Do you want to evolve it into something else?
Once you've determined what defines you as a workplace, look for hires that fit the bill. If your employees share your vision, they're likelier to excel in their jobs and all stick around long enough to help you succeed.
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