Hiring your first employee can either be the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you, or the scariest. Exciting because it means you’ve got enough work to justify another pair of hands, scary because it means you’re now responsible for someone else’s paycheck.
Here are my top ten tips for getting someone on board with your business:
- Check your purpose: Are you hiring because you’re exhausted, or because you are turning orders away each week? If your purpose was only ever to have a small home based business that made you some extra cash, does hiring another person still fit in with those plans? Just because you CAN grow bigger doesn’t mean you should or you even want to. A better solution might be to revise your pricing upwards and take on fewer orders.
- Make a list: of all the things you want help with which are EASILY TRAINABLE. Training people to give quotes is a lot harder than training people to fill a cake. Hire people to do the easier jobs which are sucking your time up and which can easily be done by others.
- Check the rules: what are the employment rules about minimum wage, benefits, etc? I know many of us start by hiring people for cash in hand and random hours. Even if you plan to do that you have a responsibility to know what the rules are. Also check your insurance, does it cover people other than you? You don’t want to be finding this stuff out after they sue you or they’ve fallen over and broken an arm.
- Hire for personality, train for skill: even if you’re hiring someone who has the same technical skills you do, you’ve still got to get along with them. When it’s you and one other person, you’ve GOT TO get along (especially when the buttercream hits the fan, as it invariably will). You can train someone to make flowers, you can’t train them to have a personality or be a decent human being.
- Be realistic about the gig: initially you won’t want or need to hire someone full time, so be upfront and honest about this from the get-go. Don’t make promises based on future work you haven’t gotten yet (just like customers who want a discount because they will send you a ton of work later.) Be honest about the seasonality of our industry, what hours you expect of them, and what the job entails (it’s physical and it’s sticky!) Also, remember that they won’t work as fast as you do HOWEVER you’ll need them to speed up. So if they are slow at first, no big deal..but they’ve got to be able to speed up otherwise they are costing you more than you think.
- You won’t find the perfect person immediately: sometimes it will take trying out a few people before you find the right fit. Get everyone to do a trial period – even if only just for a day (although I recommend a longer period). You’ll be amazed at what you learn just in that one day.
- Multi-skill people: Teach them how to do different things. So if you’ve got a storefront, have employees who can man the counter, but also pop into the kitchen to throw together a batch of buttercream. EVERYONE should start their training at the bottom and work their way both up and across.
- Boundaries, boundaries, BOUNDARIES: Don’t befriend them on Facebook, take them out drinking, or tolerate behaviour you shouldn’t (like being consistently late, stealing or using their phone for personal calls.) It’s so hard in a small business to retain these boundaries but you will be SO GLAD you did.
- Check in regularly – Once a month or so, sit down over a coffee and cake and check in. Is there anything they want to talk about? Do you have issues with them? Is there a new skill they want to train in, etc. The easier and more accessible you are to talk to, the more they will talk to you.
- It’s not just the money – Make your workplace a GREAT place to work, with small perks which won’t cost you much but create a loving culture. I’m talking about stuff like – a balloon/gift card on their birthday, paying for lunch once a month, letting them borrow a tool if they need, give them an unexpected Friday afternoon off, pay for them to do a class to upskill. The better you treat people the better they will treat you and their job.
I truly LOVED having employees even though it was a challenge to manage their needs and personalities. Most people are so happy and excited to be working with cake – and let’s face it, it’s not like it’s an emotionally demanding job (even if some cakes bring us to tears.) That being said, people are people and anytime you’re in a small, time-sensitive environment with (likely) a bunch of women, there’s the potential for drama.
My top tip for hiring is this: Be the professional Boss Lady you should be, AND be the boss you wish YOU had.