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Hiring employees

For many, looking to grow a business means taking on more staff. But employing people can also be a nightmare. If you get it wrong, instead of releasing your time and helping your company grow, you can find yourself micro-managing a team of people and still having your own work to do! 

In this episode, David brings you his 8 tips for hiring people from his experience of having hired close to 50 people over two decades in business. Including: how to know when is the right time to hire; how to make sure you can get someone who can actually do the job; and can you advertise only for people who are vegan themselves?!

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Episode transcript:

Hello and welcome to episode eighty-eight of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe. And if you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.
 
And in today’s session, we’re going to be talking about hiring employees – because at some point, if you need to grow your business you need help and the obvious way to do that is to bring more people into your business to help you. But employing people can also be – and there’s no way to say this gently – a complete and utter nightmare. You can go from being too busy to still being too busy but now being a manager of a bunch of people all needing your help too if you don’t get it right. So I’ve got my checklist of eight top tips if you are thinking about hiring someone in your business: when is the right time to do it, should you actually employ people or take on freelancers, and how to make sure you find someone who can actually do the job.
 
Just quickly before we go into that though, a few updates from our amazing Vegan Business Tribe community, because if you are really looking for help to grow a successful vegan business then you need to make sure that you are not just listening to this podcast, but that you also come sign-up with us on the website also at VeganBusinessTribe.com – and we’ve got so much going on at the moment. We’ve just launched our new member directory, so if you are looking for a vegan business then you can see all our members by just going to our website and clicking on the new member directory tab. And the directory is fully searchable, you can filter by country or business sector and if you want to be in the directory yourself then it’s all part of your Vegan Business Tribe membership.
 
We’re also launching our brand new video course in October on how to find more customers. And let me tell you, if getting new customers is a complete mystery to you then this course is going to teach you everything you need to know to find more people to buy from your business. I go into how people actually make buying decisions, how you can move people from one stage of their buying journey to the next and how there is no way you are ever going to get someone to buy if you don’t know what their trigger point is and when they have hit it.
 
It’s going to be four or five hours of video, broken up into sessions, all delivered by myself – walking you through each stage of getting customers so that you can take the mystery out of getting people to spend money with your vegan business. However, for the first time ever at Vegan Business Tribe we are adding an extra one-to-one support programme to the new course. So, if you actually want myself and Lisa to coach you through the process of finding more customers, if you want us to help you one-on-one to apply what’s in the course to your own unique business, then you can sign-up for a three-month support programme where we’ll work with you alongside the course. Now, the video course is included in your Vegan Business Tribe membership but the coaching is only going to be available to four companies – that’s as many as we can coach through the course at a time. So, pre-registration is now open for the course, and when you register you can tick the box that says you’d like to apply for one of the four places on the support programme with myself and Lisa too and it would be great to have you take one of those places.
 
So just head to the website and find the courses page in the Vegan Business Academy section and then pre-register there. Or if you want to know more, just email us on hello@veganbusinesstribe.com
 
So, to now seamlessly segway back into our topic for this session – finding customers is great, but what do you do if you’ve got too many customers and you need to expand your business? For many people, this is the trigger point that makes you think it’s time to bring in help. But if you have never employed people before then it can be a scary process. Can you afford to hire someone? Will they save you time or will they actually take up your time? What do you do about all the things like holiday and sick pay?
 
But in many instances, growing a business means taking on staff – you cannot do everything yourself, and if you’re sat there trying to make, deliver and sell your product yourself then you are never going to grow. But on the other hand, if you’ve already got a team of people you might find that you spend all your time managing people and not moving your business forwards either. Hiring people should not be a case of simply bringing in more bodies and filling more chairs, it should be strategic. Every person you bring in should be enabling your company to move forward in some way. And if at some point you plan to exit or sell your business, then the company cannot be based around you. If you have a team of employees running a business where the company does not rely on any one person, then that gives it far more intrinsic value and it can continue running if you choose to sell.
 
And I’ve had plenty of experience in this. I ran an agency for many years and over a decade I probably hired over 50 people. From designers to account managers to sales people and administrators. I even hired a couple of people who became co-directors of the business. But I still remember the first person I ever employed, back when I was probably about 24, and I basically hired someone to be my boss. At the time I was working on my own and I was doing all the work myself. I was answering the phone and replying to emails, I was doing the accounts and admin and prospecting for new work. But I also wanted to grow a business, so I thought: if I can bring someone in to do all the other stuff, in essence, run the business while I do the actual work, then I’ll have time to do EVEN MORE work and earn more money. And in one way I was right, I freed up my time from the admin side of the business so I could do more wore work, I was busier than ever. Did I earn more money? No. Because I now had a member of staff to pay and they got paid a set wage at the end of the month regardless of how much money we’d earned. I took my pay from whatever was left, which often wasn’t much. And on top of it all, my employee was telling ME what to do, which project to work on next to hit a deadline and passing on instructions from customers meaning I had even less time to work ON the business.
 
Now I’m not going to be too hard on myself because I was only in my twenties and I’d never hired an employee before, but I thought that was just how it worked. You brought someone in to do all the stuff you were too busy to do so that you could take on more work. And that’s great if you are just building a job for yourself rather than a business. If you want to bring someone in to take over the admin so you can be more productive in your job, then that’s great. But that’s not building a business. At some point, if you are a business owner then you need to step up and BE a business owner. You need to be the one directing the business, and you cannot do that if you spend 110% of your time making your product or delivering your service.
 
So if you are at the point where you’re bursting at the seams, where you just can’t keep up with orders then you’re naturally going to start thinking about expanding your team. It’s how we think businesses work – you build a company by bringing in more people and for many, you’re not actually a proper company until you employ a bunch of people. But before you just put an advert out on a job board or your social media with a new job role, there are a few things for you to consider first. I’ve got eight things to think about when employing staff that might just make a big difference to how you approach doing it:
 
  1. Do you need to expand or do you just need to put your prices up?
 
Now, this one might make you just stop and think for a second. If you are completely stacked out with work but still not earning a decent wage then bringing in employees is unlikely to change that. Hiring an employee is not going to double your turnover, and if you are struggling to make a profit with just yourself, then having two wages to pay will only make that worse.
 
So before you employ and just add to the problem, you need to make sure your business model works and is sustainable first. So if you are working at capacity and not making a profit then put your prices up. Keep putting them up until you are earning the same amount of money but only doing half the work or you are just as busy but earning twice as much – either scenario is an improvement on where you are now. In a small business, hiring is often not the problem-solver you think it’s going to be so look to see if there are other ways you can improve the situation before bringing staff into it. If you’re drowning in admin, then I guarantee that a lot of it can be automated. You can bring in better CRM systems and processes. Or you might be able to simply just get rid of a lot of the admin that takes up your time in the business. Get someone to walk through your tasks list with you and simply question why you are spending time on each job. There are likely things you are doing that simply don’t need the amount of time given to them that you are at the moment – so why hire someone else to keep doing those things if they can be automated, streamlined or got rid of entirely?
 
  1. Do you need to hire, or do you need to sub-contract?
 
Ever since Tim Ferris released his book The 4-Hour Work Week, people started to see the benefit of building virtual teams as a replacement for hiring full-time staff. There are many modern ways to build a business. That admin assistant you were thinking about hiring, do they actually need to sit in your office or can they work online from their own? And do you need them full-time, or can they run your admin at the same time as working with other clients? Or can they even work in a different time zone so that all the tasks are done overnight while you are asleep? There are many modern ways of working, and some of the most successful companies bring together freelance teams just as long as they are needed to complete a specific project. And the benefit is that as a small business, you don’t need to pay for holidays, sick-pay or set up a payroll scheme. There are no contracts to work out and you are not trying to fill someone’s time up because there’s not enough work for them to do. Of course, this doesn’t work for every job – if you run a vegan restaurant and you need front-of-house staff then they physically need to be there. But I know several vegan food manufacturers who don’t even have a head office. Their product is made through contract manufacturing and their whole team works online – they leave the manufacturing and distribution to an established company to handle and focus simply on growing the brand and building up their customer base. If you get your hair cut or go for a beauty treatment, there’s a chance that the hairdresser or beautician isn’t actually employed by the place you are visiting, they are hiring the space or are self-employed working under that company’s name.
 
So before you write out that job advert, ask if the same role could be filled just as well by someone working for themselves or even could it be undertaken as a one-off project by someone rather than an employee? It might work better for you and it might work better for them.
 
  1. Have a clear objective of what hiring staff is going to achieve
 
Before you hire, ask yourself, “how is bringing this person into the company going to move the business forward?”. What are they going to let you do that you can’t achieve now? Don’t just bring someone in to just generally help you out, have a really specific goal of what they need to achieve. The BEST reason to hire someone is to replace yourself in the business. As we keep saying, you are going to find it hard to focus on the growth of your business if you are the one spending the whole day making your product or delivering your service, so how can you bring someone in to replace what you do and free yourself up to actually be the business leader?
 
Or you might look to bring someone in to help you enter a new marketplace or deliver a new service, both really good reasons to hire. Bring in someone with expertise and contacts that the company doesn’t have. But if that’s the case, don’t hire someone on the pretext that they are going to be in charge of building up sales in a new market but then also start dumping your admin on them! You need to let them do the thing you brought them in to do. Companies can absorb employees who are brought in with a specific goal but end up spending little time on achieving that goal, until you get to the point where you’ve doubled your number of staff but not actually moved forward as a business!
 
  1. Don’t hire until the cash forecast says you can
 
When you take on a new member of staff, you have a responsibility to be able to pay that person a wage. They might have left another job for yours, they might have a mortgage to pay, dependents to look after, so you need to have some certainty that you are going to have the funds to pay them. So, if you don’t even HAVE a cashflow forecast in place at the moment, if you can’t say with some confidence what money is going to be coming into the business in six months’ time, then you are NOT ready to employ someone. Go back and listen to episode 67 of this podcast where I talk about how to set up a cashflow, it’s one of those boring but important things that will completely change your business.
 
You NEED to be able to see the impact that paying a wage each month is going to have on your business’s outgoings and make sure it’s in good enough financial health to be able to afford it. If it’s not, then use freelancers, use contractors until you have that certainty.
 
  1. Make sure that the person you are hiring can do the job
 
I used to run a design team of eight full-time designers, and when we were hiring a new designer, at the first interview I would make sure that I got them on a computer to do a test project. Could they use the design software? Did they know how to output a file correctly? And probably about a third of people applying for the job couldn’t. If at all possible, you need to do the same. Before you hire someone, make sure they can actually do the job. If you are hiring a chef, get them to cook up a dish for you in your kitchen or pay them to come and work a shift with you as part of the interview process. If you are hiring someone to do your admin, get them to run through your calendar and CRM during the interview with you to check their skills and familiarity. You do not have to, and in fact you shouldn’t, just employ the first person who walks through the door that you think can do that job.
 
Also have a trial period at the start of the contract where you both have a get-out clause if it’s not working out. This is important not just for you but for the employee too. If someone just isn’t a good fit and they realise they have made a mistake in accepting a job with you, then you don’t want that to have to play out over several months. Or if someone obviously doesn’t have the skill-set they thought they had and are struggling to do the job, then having a set date in the diary a month after they started where you can both agree to continue or call it quits is very useful.
 
  1. Get the legal stuff right
 
Employees are rightly protected by lots of laws, and those laws are different depending on which country you are employing in. Now, usually, you will not have any issues. If you have chosen someone who is a great fit for your business and has the skills to help move you forwards then you’re probably never going to fall foul of employment law, but why take that risk? Make sure you have contracts of employment in place, not only is it a legal requirement but it will protect you too. Make sure that you have clear company policies and that you get your employee’s signature that they have read and are aware of all these policies. Let them know how grievances are handled and if they have a problem in the business who they need to come to and how they can make a complaint.
 
Many employment law firms will do you a reasonably-priced template for a contract of employment which you can then customise for each new employee. You can also find templates online but again, they always come with a warning that they may not be relevant to your business or completely cover you. So do your research, find out what you need to have in place both legally but also in terms of good practice before you start looking for an employee.
 
And this extends to the hiring process also. Be inclusive. You cannot and should not discriminate in your candidates. Try exercises like having a friend remove the personal details from the CVs you receive before you read them, so that you are just looking at that person’s skills and experience, not their gender, race or physical ability – and use that as your decision for who you are going to interview.
 
  1. Go find the person you want to hire, don’t wait for them to find you
 
Most people think that you simply put out a job advert and then wait for people to apply. Doing this can work, but it relies on people who are actively job-hunting at that moment. If you have created a really key role in your business, a role that’s actually going to be fundamental to your business’s success, then don’t wait and hope for the right person to come to you. Do you know where recruiters get the majority of their candidates? From LinkedIn, and they are usually people who are already in good jobs.
 
You can do the same, go find someone who is already doing the job you need someone to do but for someone else, and get in contact with them. Make them aware of the role and say you’d be happy to have a conversation if they were looking for a new challenge. It might be that you can offer them more autonomy than they are getting now, or that you can give them more security, or just that you have a better working culture or flexible working hours. There are lots of reasons why people who thought they were happy in their current role might decide to take a job somewhere else if approached with an offer.
 
You might also want to post your job where you are likely to get vegan applicants. By law, here in the UK at least, you cannot say that someone has to be vegan to work with your company. It’s part of the discrimination laws, in the same way you can’t discriminate against someone based on their religion or culture, you can’t discriminate on someone’s ethical beliefs either – even if to you those ethical beliefs are negative! But you can post your role on vegan job boards, and there are more of them around than you think. Vevolution, Vegan Jobs, Passion Placement especially in the US – all have job boards advertising vegan jobs meaning you are more likely to get applications from people who share your company’s ethics.
 
  1. Have a good onboarding strategy for new employees
 
There is nothing worse when you start a new job than having no idea what you are supposed to be doing. Especially if you are working remotely online. So when you have someone new starting with your business, schedule in regular time for that person. Have a Zoom catch-up at the start, middle and end of the day for the first week at least if not longer. Set goals for that week with the person so they know what you are looking for them to achieve. Don’t think you can just hire someone and then give them the keys to the business and go sit in a coffee shop planning your vegan world domination while they work away without your input.
 
The more support you can give then the quicker this person will get up to speed. But also – the more autonomy you can give, the better they will become at working without your daily input. Set an outcome rather than a job role and let them work out the best way to achieve that outcome themselves. Yes, it might not be the way that YOU would do it, but does that matter? You don’t want to become a full-time micro-manager of this person, teaching them all your bad habits. Let them go away and research their own solutions, because there might be far better ways of doing things and then they can take ownership of the process.
 
 
So that is my eight tips for hiring, and they are all based on experience. And if you get it right, then you can build a company that is autonomous, where employees feel they are all building something together, are all on the same mission and have real ownership – rather than just having a job. If you get it wrong, then you will find yourself running a business where you spend all your time micro-managing your staff and trying to motivate them to get results. So if you are in that place where you are thinking about hiring more people, then spend time getting it right. Don’t just bring in the first person you interview, don’t be afraid to spend months finding the right person who shares your vision and will help you move the business forward.
 
OK, so let’s just have a quick bullet-point catch-up of our eight tips for hiring employees:
 
 
  1. Do you need to expand or do you just need to put your prices up? If you are completely stacked out with work but still not earning a decent wage then bringing in employees is unlikely to change that. Instead, consider putting up your prices until you are doing half the work for the same income or are still as busy but have the extra profit to employ someone.
  2. Do you need to hire, or do you need to sub-contract? Employing can bring a lot of complications as a small business. Can you use freelancers, contractors, virtual assistants, or even use other companies to fulfil your services or make your products. There are lots of ways to build a business without going to the effort of hiring people.
  3. Have a clear objective of what hiring staff is going to achieve. Before you hire, ask yourself, “how is bringing this person into the company going to move the business forward?”. What are they going to let you do that you can’t achieve now? Even better, ask how is this person going to replace YOU in the business so that you can concentrate on BUILDING the business.
  4. Don’t hire until the cash forecast says you can. You NEED to be able to see the impact that paying a wage each month is going to have on your business’s outgoings and make sure it’s in good enough financial health to be able to afford it. If it’s not, then use freelancers and contractors until you have that certainty. And if you don’t have a cash forecast, then go listen to episode 67!
  5. Make sure that the person you are hiring can do the job. Set a test as part of the interview process, get them to come work a day with you, make sure they have the skills they think they have before you give them a contract!
  6. Get the legal stuff right. It’s not worth taking the risk, so research what you need to have in place to meet the legal requirements of your country BEFORE you start the hiring process.
  7. Go find the person you want to hire, don’t wait for them to find you. Don’t be afraid to approach people who are already doing the role you need to fill but for another company. Use LinkedIn to start a conversation with someone about offering them a new challenge.
  8. Have a good onboarding strategy for new employees. Schedule in regular time for that person. Have a Zoom catch-up at the start, middle and end of the day for the first week at least if not longer. Set goals for that week with the person so they know what you are looking for them to achieve. And don’t be afraid to set an outcome rather than a job role and let them work out the best way to achieve that outcome themselves.
 
And that is it! And if you’ve got any of your own tips, or even horror stories, on employing staff that you want to share, you can either post them in the Vegan Business Tribe Community Hub or just send me a message and let me know. And remember to go check out both our new member directory on the website and to pre-register for our new course on finding new customers for your vegan business. And if you’re not already a member of Vegan Business Tribe, then seriously – what are you playing at? If you are serious about building a vegan business that actually makes an impact then come and join us at veganbusinesstribe.com, click on the ‘join’ button on the home page and you will see all the benefits you get from being a member. But we’re also funded by our membership, so if you want to help us to keep championing the vegan business scene around the globe then I would love you to sign up to support us.
 
So thank you so much for listening, Lisa and I, we really appreciate you giving up your time to join us on this podcast, and if you are on iTunes then please write us a quick 5-star review so that other people know this is a podcast worth listening to, or give us a thumbs up or whatever your platform lets you do, and I’ll see you on the next one!

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