You’ve decided to start a small business. You’ve had the ah-ha moment and the tough talks, and you’re finally ready to make the leap. We totally get that journey — after all, we’re entrepreneurs ourselves.
When it comes to building your company, it can be tough to know where to start. Who should your first hires be? When should you make these hires? Below are top tips from us about where you should invest your time and what steps you should take.
Hire #1: Yourself, the founder & owner
This is an obvious one. But what will you, as the founder, be responsible for? The answer is a little bit of everything. You’ll be raising money, making sales, promoting the business, and handling all operations and back-office tasks to keep the business running.
However, don’t make the mistake of riding solo for too long. Know when to hire your #2, your #3, and your #4 team members. If you overwork yourself, burn out, or put too many things on the backburner, you’ll kick yourself later.
Hire #2: Your co-founder
Batman had Robin, Abbott had Costello, Thelma had Louise…It’s time for you to find your sidekick. Look for someone who shares your passion, gets your vision, and is a complement to you — someone who is great at the stuff you’re not-so-great at.
As a small startup, you’re going to want someone who knows how to get their hands dirty, is comfortable with the sometimes bumpy road that is entrepreneurship, and ultimately is a great team player.
Hire #3: Depends on your business —here’s what we mean.
If you’re a software company, your next hire should be your engineers — one front-end engineer and one back-end engineer to start with. If you’re a services company, you’ll need to hire the people who are actually going to deliver the service you’re selling. If you’re a company that sells physical products, you’ll want an operations person.
The one point to keep in mind that pulls this all together? Hire for potential, not just track record. Small businesses and startups oftentimes find great talent at a lesser cost, because they’re willing to take a chance on and nurture passionate, high-potential individuals.
Hire #4: Creatives to build your logo, brand, website, and email foundation.
This is the fun part — making your vision come to life. Whether you’re planning on hiring in-house or contracting out the creative part of your business, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, know what you want to accomplish, and make sure it’s crystal clear internally. With goals and objectives in mind, you’ll find a hire (or a partner) who can effectively help you move forward. Next, outline how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to marketing, whether you want to be hands off or totally involved, and how well the new person fits in with your team. If everyone is on the same page, managing a freelancer, a partnership with a marketing firm, or even an internal person will be that much easier.
Hire #5: Someone who can manage your clients.
At the beginning, you and your co-founder will handle client relationships. But as you grow, you’ll need a dedicated team member for this role. It takes a lot of work and trust to bring on new customers when you’re first starting out, and the truth is that you can’t afford to lose them. Bring someone onboard who can allocate the adequate amount of time to nurturing these relationships.
At this stage, our advice is to find someone who can wear many hats. Not only do they need to be able to manage the accounts and provide customer service, they’ll also need to be comfortable with upsells, customer marketing, and even some sales work. Versatility is key.
Hire #6: A full-blown salesperson.
Up until this point, you’ve been responsible for building interest in your company — from both investors and potential customers. But it’s now time to hire a full-time salesperson to help grow your customer base and bring in much needed revenue.
What should you look for specifically? Raw characteristics like resourcefulness, an aptitude for meeting challenges with bright ideas, likeability, and natural leadership are good places to start. With the right mix of characteristics — and a true belief in your product — you’ll get a strong heading of what works best for your company, your brand, and your future.
Hire #7: Someone to handle the books.
As your business grows, there will come a point where it’s not possible — and not smart — to continue doing the books yourself. You might find bookkeeping tedious or you need the dedicated and professional insight that will take you to the next level. But regardless of the “why,” hiring a dedicated bookkeeper or accountant is a smart decision.
Not ready to take the plunge to a fully in-house bookkeeper or accountant for submitting invoices, paying bills, or doing payroll? Consider going with an outsourced bookkeeping option, and partnering with someone who can grow with you as you grow. After all, who doesn’t aspire to need advanced financial services somewhere down the road?\
From your first hire to your hundredth, take the time to do things the way you can be proud of down the road. Don’t make a hasty decision, but also don’t wait too long to bring on help. Each hire is a huge step for your company — and making the right decisions in the beginning is critical. Stay tuned for ‘Building Your Small Business Part 2: Hiring the New Wave of Leadership.’