June 16, 2010 -- Small businesses usually start-off as a one-man show. When you are the owner you do everything from emptying the trash to collecting the cash. As your business grows, however, it can reach a point where the volume of work is overwhelming. That's not a bad thing in terms of your business success, but it can cause you to become stressed out and burned out. There are only 24 hours in every day and there's only so much one person can accomplish.
Reaching this point in your entrepreneurial journey is a pivotal moment. It's the proverbial fork in the road. The direction you choose will have a lasting impact on your business. You recognize the need for additional manpower to manage the business but the thought of committing to more overhead is scary. However, you also realize if you don't add additional resources then you'll stagnate at your current level of business. It's a catch 22 in many respects.
So how do you know what to do? When is the right time to hire your first employee? The answer: When the business is ready. When you are ready. And when adding employees is in strategic alignment with your vision for the business.
First, review your business goals. If you desire to build a sustainable business enterprise, then it is going to take more than one set of hands to get you to that point. My theory about adding employees is what I call the MYTOP theory. MYTOP stands for multiply yourself through other people. Your first employee should be someone who complements your skill set so you can focus more of your time and energy on the things that you do well and add the most value to your business. So step number one before you hire anyone is to analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
Figure Out the Job Before You Hire Someone for It
Next, remember to hire smart, not fast. Clearly identify your business needs. That means you need to write a job description. Yes, I realize this is tough because you've never had anyone work for you before so how do you really know what the job is going to entail. Now is the time to figure it out. It's important for you to define your expectations so you can identify the right candidate. It's also important for your employee. Without established expectations the chances of failure are great. Not to mention the frustration it can cause for both of you.
Determine your salary range for the new position. Committing to a salary is the scary part. Recognize when you hire someone, in order to get the type of individual you need to help you grow your business, you may have to take a salary cut yourself. In fact, many entrepreneurs find they have to miss a paycheck here and there in order to make sure their employees or paid. Are you ready to make that commitment? It's another form of making a financial investment in your business. However, if you choose wisely the rewards are worth it because two people can accomplish more than one.
Finally, avoid hiring family and friends. I would venture to say 90 percent of the time hiring a friend or a family members ends in a disaster. When things go awry, good, long-term friendships are destroyed and family gatherings turn out to be extremely uncomfortable.
What if the friend or family member is willing to work for free or a below market-value salary, and your cash flow is tight? Remember the adage, you get what you pay for? Your friends and family typically mean well and they think they are doing you a favor because they want you to succeed. The operative word here is "favor." Remember that! Because when someone thinks they are helping you out and doing you a favor, then it's not a "real" job, and you aren't really the "boss." Chances are they won't take you or the job seriously, and could easily leave you high and dry when you need them the most.
Building the right team can help you grow your business faster than you can ever do it alone. But make sure you do it carefully and make smart choices.
This article is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.