Hiring your first employee: What you need to know

In this article, Neil Parker shares his top tips for small businesses hiring their first ever employee.

Your first hire is crucial to the future success of your business. However, for many new business owners, it’s the first hiring decision they’ve ever been part of. While this is an exciting time for any business owner, as it means your business plan is working and you’re ready to expand, it also brings new challenges you may have never faced before.

To help you find the perfect first employee for your fledging company, I’ve put together these tips based on my 12 years’ experience as a small business owner.

Utilise your network

When it comes to hiring your first ever employee, the first place you should turn is your existing network. The most obvious place to look is your primary connections. These are the people you’re closest to — your friends and family. You may well find the perfect person to help take your business to the next level among your nearest and dearest.

This was the case for me. For the first few years I ran DriveDen by myself, but as the orders started to flood in, I needed some help designing a new website. Luckily for me, a close friend had just graduated with a degree in design. This allowed me to hire someone I knew and trusted rather than having to go through the hassle of posting a job ad, going over CVs with a fine-tooth comb, and then going through the entire interview process.

In the end, it was a great arrangement for us both; I saved time and money on the interview process and ended up with a great addition to the business, and he got a job in his chosen field straight out of uni.

So, when you’re looking to make the first addition to your business, look to your network before anything else. If you don’t have any friends or family who have the skills that you need to take your business to the next level, they might know someone who does, so ask them to put the word out on your behalf.

If you can find the perfect match for your business through your network, you will save yourself the hassle of creating the infrastructure needed to find and vet applicants.

Hire at the right time

While making sure you hire the right person is crucial, making sure you’re hiring them at the right time is just as important. Bringing in your first employee before your business plan has been validated and you’re ready to expand your operations can be a very costly mistake. If you reach the point where you have to turn customers or clients away if you don’t bring someone else in, you can guarantee that you’re not making your first hire too soon.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t wait too long to bring someone in. If the day-to-day running of the company is leaving you with no time to focus on growing your business, it’s time to hire someone else. This will free up your time to focus on the big picture and drive further growth, which is your role as the director of the business.

Hire for specific tasks

The people you hire should bring skills to the table that you don’t possess. However, when you’re just starting out, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to hire a full- or part-time employee because you need their expertise for one specific task. You can find skilled freelancers from around the world through websites like Freelancer and Upwork to perform these tasks for a one-off fee.

So, when your business begins to expand and you need to take on outside help, consider whether brining in freelancers for a series of one-off projects would be the best option. For example, there’s no need to bring in a full-time designer if all you need is logo. This will keep your business agile, which will give you more flexibility when you do need to make that first hire.

Consider consultants

If you do have recurring tasks that need completing, you should also consider whether you’d be better off bringing in a consultant rather than an employee. Marketing, design, and advertising agencies might all offer a higher level of expertise for the money than you’d get through an employee, so it’s well worth considering.

Personally, I use an accounting agency to arrange my payroll and finances, and my HR is also supported by a local consultant. This frees up my time to spend on building the business without the unnecessary expense of having full-time employees on the books.

So, there you have it — everything you need to consider before you make your first ever hire. If you keep these tips in mind when it’s time to grow your business, you’re sure to bring in the right person at exactly the right time.

Neil Parker is managing director of DriveDen.

Further reading on employing staff

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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