Hiring your first employee can be scary. You’re (usually) putting trust into somebody you haven’t got much of any working history with to complete tasks that are essential to your company’s operations, and you’re forking over hard-earned cash in return without 100% certainty on whether or not that person will realistically deliver what you need. A scarier scenario is hiring somebody for a job you need done that you don’t have any understanding of at all, and therefore can’t do nearly as detailed of quality assurance in the early days.
That being said, the RIGHT new hire can take your company to the next level. A tough part is taking that very first leap with zero experience in hiring. An even tougher part is knowing if (or when) you should fire that first employee, or give them a raise. After all, you’ve got no prior experiences to compare them to.
In one of our more recent interviews with Dane Maxwell, founder of TheFoundation.com, he shares his story on how he hired his first employee, and how he recommends others do the same. Check it out:
Dane’s advice here is spot on. However, one of the more interesting parts of the interviews we’ve done at MentorMojo is that we often find that various founders take different paths to doing key things like hiring – and there’s no single right answer.
Here are five of my own pieces of insight that can help shape your recruitment strategy to accompany this advice from Dane:
- Don’t Hire Your First Employe Until You’ve Validated Your Concept
Many people choose to hire because their company is struggling. They believe that with added help, their company can move forward and begin to thrive. While this is true in some cases, it’s not true in every case because it depends on the reason WHY your company is struggling.
Before you hire, strive to achieve a concept called Product Market Fit. Coined by the godfather of growth hacking, Sean Ellis, this is when >40% of your customers (i.e. not your mom or your friends) that they would be “VERY disappointed if your product or service magically disappeared tomorrow”. In my own companies, we’ve done these through on-site user surveys. This ensures that users have zero allegiance to us personally, and that they’re able to anonymously answer this question.
Until you hit this magic number, don’t go into hiring mode. Focus instead on continuing to build and tweak your product through things like customer feedback and behavioral analytics.
- Don’t Hire Your First Employee Until You’ve Systemized Your Operations As Much As Possible
To get the most out of a new hire, it’s important you live in the trenches of what their job would be (if possible) for a while. This will ensure you understand enough about their day-to-day workload and you’ll be able to start crafting a clear set of policies, procedures and tasks they can start doing on day one. Map these out in as intricate of detail as you can so your first week isn’t spent hand-holding and you can actually get some things done.
That said, note that your new hire SHOULD be even better at what you hire them for than you are, so this set of systematized items should only be used as a base they can work from. If they’re the correct hire, they should be able to continue to craft and tweak these, documenting them as they go. Not only will you reduce the potential for human error quite a bit, but you’ll also learn a lot about what their job is in case you ever need to hire somebody else to do the same thing.
- Don’t Hire Your First Employee Until You’re Becoming Backlogged With Tasks Your Customers Need Completed
Once you’ve systemized operations as much as you can, continue working yourself until you’re on the edge of becoming backlogged too much to keep offering a good product or service. This will give you ample time to learn more and systemize more effectively, but it will also ensure that when you hire your new employee, that you both NEED to hire, and that you’re also familiar enough in the intricacies of the job that you can more effectively troubleshoot and answer questions as they come up.
That said, don’t wait until you’re so backlogged that your customers start feeling neglected – if this happens, you’re waiting too long. This is because the first hire you make often won’t be the right one, and you’ll need a little time for an on-the-job evaluation period to make sure that whatever you opt to do (move forward with the hire or move on), you’re making the right decision. You don’t want to be SO swamped that you’re handcuffed to a bad hire or your company would fall apart.
- Don’t Hire Your First Employee Until You’ve Mapped the Job Requirements and Objectively Interviewed Multiple Candidates
Hiring isn’t just about the shape your company is in. It’s also about finding and interviewing the right people. If you can be as clear as possible about what a job entails when you post it on whichever site you’re listing your job opportunity on, you’re a lot more likely to find candidates that will eventually love what they’re doing.
If you spring unexplained or unmapped duties on a new hire once they’re in the door, you may get what YOU want out of the deal, but they won’t necessarily be getting what THEY want out of the deal – and they may opt to voluntarily leave you, sometimes high and dry. Be honest about what you’re looking for in the beginning, and you won’t have nearly as many surprises like this moving forward.
- Don’t Hire Your First Employee Until You’ve Got Access to Somebody Experienced Who Can Help Evaluate Your New Hire Early On
This fifth one is tricky, and can be dependent on the amount of experience others in your network have, and how much time and help they’re willing to offer you. Early on, and even at scale, you will often have very little clue how to evaluate the quality of what a new hire is doing for you. For example, if you’re not a programmer but need to hire one, how will you know if they code they’re writing for you is clean and well-commented? How will you know if your database is well-architected and scalable?
The answer? You won’t – but you NEED to be able to know that the hire you made is the right one, so it’s important that you find somebody who is able to say with certainty both what is happening and what, if anything, needs to change. This could be a friend, a colleague, a connection or an advisor, but it’s often critical to knowing if your new hire is a world-beater or a scam artist.
Author: Biz Think Tank
BizThinkTank is a dedicated small business website, with a wealth of regularly updated tips and articles. Whether you’re looking to start a business or grow your business, you’ll find a wealth of handy advice and information.