You hit your busy season, and the stress is overwhelming. People say it is a good problem to have — so much work that you are not sure when one day ends and another begins. There certainly is a silver lining in that your business is booming, customers are finding you, orders are coming in. This is an exciting moment that you would like to celebrate except for the fact that you cannot breathe.
The typical business owner gets to this moment and has an epiphany – let’s just hire some help. A few more hands would lighten the workload and maybe get you a few hours of sleep between shifts. With all this business coming in right now, you can certainly afford to pay a couple people to help.
These are all good thoughts, but what you do next is critical. If you do not put the time into organizing your hiring process now, before you actually post a position, this new hiring adventure could turn sour very quickly. Without organization and forethought, these are some potential outcomes:
You spend time hiring and training the wrong person and he ends up stealing from you.
A great “self-starter” comes along, but when the rush is over, you cannot afford to continue paying him, and you have to let him go.
You spend precious time interviewing unqualified candidates and after a couple months your frustration with not finding the right person leads you to give up on hire altogether.
The first person you hire has some scheduling conflicts, so you hire another person to fill in the gaps. Soon you are hiring a third person, spending more money than you anticipated on employees, and wasting a lot of time managing schedules.
You hire someone and spend more time telling him what to do and re-doing his work that it ends up costing you business.
There are a million things that can and do go wrong when a business owner sets out to staff up without any experience or plan. This shouldn’t stop you from growing your business, however. You just need to approach hiring like any new skill, get some good advice, get organized and make a plan.
Here are the first 5 steps in organizing your hiring process:
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Document your production process. This may seem like a waste of time right now when you have so many orders to fill that you need extra help, but you have to know exactly what you do in order to hire someone to help you. Write down the steps you go through from design to completion. If your business is service oriented, document the life cycle of a client.
Figure out where your backlog is. Which step of the production process takes the most time? At what stage is the work getting held up? You need to clearly understand where these extra hands could help move the work along faster and increase your capacity. Would it help if you had two people setting up files for new customers or is it the person doing your finish work who is most overwhelmed?
Decide where your own expertise is best utilized. What parts of the production process require your personal attention and what can be delegated to a trained staff member? You may think you just need someone to answer the phone, so you can concentrate on production. If that person cannot answer any of the questions people are calling in with, and has to constantly interrupt you for those answers, you would be better off answering the phone yourself and training your assistant on the production process.
Write a job description. Again, this might seem a little too detailed for the moment, but it is essential. If you cannot articulate what you want a new employee to do in specific detail, he will never be successful and you will be disappointed in your new hire. List all the tasks you expect this new person to do. Think through the job in terms of a typical day and an entire week, and record all of your expectations.
Match the job description with a list of skills. Looking at the tasks, make a list of the skills required. Be very specific; do not make any assumptions. If the job includes answering the phone, one skill on the list should be proper phone etiquette. Also include some basic personality traits that would be needed. If customer contact is involved, for example, you may want to include a pleasant demeanor or ability to resolve disputes.
This is the minimum background work you need to do before you can look for a new employee. Even if you hired recently, you need to walk through these steps again to be sure nothing has changed. You’ll want to document these steps and revisit this documentation the next time you need to hire. That will save you a little time.
Hiring the best bookkeeper will become a disaster if what you really needed was another painter.
Taking the time to figure this out will save you time and money in the long-run.
If your need for additional help is immediate and directly related to your current market conditions, you might consider temporary help. Identify one job that you could train someone to do quickly and that would free up enough of your time to put a strategy together. Use a temporary placement agency to fill this position quickly.
While you have a temporary employee in place, get your preparation work done, so you can be ready to look for a full-time employee. The hiring process takes time, and once you find the right person for the right job, you still have to train him. Hiring is not a quick fix, but organized hiring can be a lasting solution and catalyst for business growth.