08/10/2014

BLOG: Hiring Your First Employee

When you’re the only person working in your business, it’s really tough knowing when it’s the right moment to hire someone else.

After a year of being the sole employee at Studioworks, I found myself working 12 hour days and eating too many ready meals. While I enjoyed having creative control over every project, I knew that I could no longer keep up with demand. I was also getting to a point where potential clients were beginning to judge me on size.

The viewpoint that I couldn’t get the job done because I wasn’t big enough (not like that, calm down) was very frustrating – and in my opinion a load of nonsense. Nevertheless, those views weren’t going to change and so I’d reached the stage where I needed some help.

Despite the pressure, hiring someone was still a big decision. Could I afford the salary? Would they drain away my profit margin? What happened if the extra capacity didn’t generate new contracts? Could I afford to pay someone year-on-year, as well as myself?

I wanted assurance so I wrote out some calculations based on potential new work vs increased costs, but, to be honest; at that stage it was still speculative. It was about belief and taking a bit of a punt. I had to ask myself what I wanted. I set up a company to build a business. I didn’t set it up just to do nice work or flatter my own ego. I wanted the business to make money. My big fear was becoming the company’s bottleneck.

So I reckoned, long-term, I needed staff who could deliver the work, eventually, without me altogether. Decision made! I got someone in to help me with employment contracts and this was absolutely crucial, not least because the laws are so complicated these days and it’s very easy get into hot water. I’m so glad that I spent the £300 on a decent HR consultant as it’s probably saved me a fortune in the long run.

The critical factor, of course, was being able to find the right person. I used all the free channels I could like social media, universities and local industry group Meetdraw. I’d taken the decision early on not to spend what little resources I had on employment agencies, they are useful but not cost effective when you’re just starting up.
I ended up with around 35 applications but, with it being my first appointment, I felt compelled to interview every single candidate. Despite being time consuming, this actually turned out to be a great plan, as I found a second contender who I would have written off based on his CV.

So this gave me two winners but a real dilemma in choosing one for the position. They had different strengths, different experience and different education. In almost every way they were opposites. When I said I was taking a bit of a punt, I actually super-sized myself to go double or quits! Much to my own surprise I employed both of them. Now that was scary, but I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity and thankfully they have both won me work which, as a sole trader, I could never have contemplated.

Since then I have hired another six staff and as a rule only employ people who are smarter than me. Some business owners struggle with this concept, but you won’t get anywhere by wanting to know more than everyone else on your team.

Being a young boss can be a difficult balance at times. Although I want to be a friend to my team, I have to constantly remind myself that I won’t always get invited to the pub because, no matter what, I’m the ‘big scary boss’. In fact this is a good thing; you shouldn’t set up a business to make friends, it’s there to make money, and there are times when you might have to make difficult decisions about staff to support that goal. If you’re best mates, that can cloud your judgement.

Despite that, and at the risk of sounding mushy, as soon as I hire someone I want to look out for them, not just because I want to hang on to them but because I want them to love their job. I think that comes from having worked for some idiots in the past and being determined not to make Studioworks one of those places. I’m always trying to improve working conditions, benefits, surroundings, fun, happiness, flexibility and these are things that mostly cost nothing but can mean a lot.

All this sounds like a grand plan but, really, I just give my team the tools to do their job effectively and let them get on with it. At first that was a terrifying prospect, but in time it’s paid to let go, recruit well and have trust in my staff. It’s freed up a lot of my time to run the business and stopped me being the bottleneck in the operation.



STUDIOWORKS

The classic tale of a company emerging from an over-busy freelancer, Studioworks now has an office brimming with digital talent and clients across the country.

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