Is it time to hire staff?
Growing a business often means having to expand your team, but employing people can also give you a real headache if you get it wrong.
We ask how do you know if it’s time to hire staff for your vegan business and share 8 top tips to help you get it right.
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 then 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 onboard 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 a company that does not rely on any one person and can continue to thrive without you has far more intrinsic value.
1. Do you need to expand or do you just need to put your prices up and automate?
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 that admin work can be automated by bringing 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 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?
2. 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. The admin assistant that 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 their 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 too, and some of the most successful companies bring together freelance teams just as long as they are needed to complete a specific project.
The benefit of this is that 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 don’t end up trying to fill someone’s time if 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 physical premises. 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 may 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 could it be undertaken as a one-off project by a freelancer rather than an employee? It might work better for you and it might work better for them.
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? 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. 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?
You might look to bring someone in to help you enter a new marketplace or deliver a new service, bringing-in someone with expertise and contacts that the company doesn’t have. But if that’s the case, then you need to let them do the thing that you brought them in to do. Don’t hire someone under the pretext that they are going to help you enter a new market or deliver a new service, and then start dumping your admin on them. Companies can absorb employees who were brought in with a specific goal but end up spending little time on achieving that goal. You may find that you’ve doubled your number of staff but not actually made any progress as a business!
Before you hire, ask 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?
4. 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 and dependents to look after, so you need to have some certainty that you are going to have the funds to pay them. If you don’t even have a cashflow forecast in place at the moment and can’t say with some confidence what money is going to be coming into the business in six month’s time then you are not ready to employ someone.
You need to be able to see the impact that paying extra wages 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.
5. Make sure that the person you are hiring can do the job
If you applied for a job as a graphic designer at a design agency, part of your interview would be getting on a computer and designing a test project to make sure you knew how to use design software and could output a file ready for the printers.
If at all possible, you need to do the same for your business. Before you offer someone a place with your company, 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. Don’t just employ the first person who walks through the door saying that they can do the job.
Also consider a trial period at the start of the contract where you both have a escape 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 realise they have made a mistake after 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.
6. 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. 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.
Many HR or employment law firms (and we have several vegan ones as members of Vegan Business Tribe!) will create a reasonably-priced template for a contract of employment which you can then customise for each new employee.
You can find templates online but 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, and do this before you start looking for an employee.
And this extends to the hiring process too. 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. Then use that to decide who you are going to interview.
7. 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 relies on people who are actively job-hunting at that moment but your ideal candidate may actually be working for someone else right now.
If you have created a really key role in your company, a role that’s going to be fundamental to your business’s success, then don’t cross your fingers and hope that the right person will come to you. You need to go find them! Do you know where professional recruitment firms find 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, but they are doing it for someone else. Get in contact and make them aware of your 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 that suits them better.
If you have created a really key role in your company, a role that’s going to be fundamental to your business’s success, then don’t cross your fingers and hope that the right person will come to you. You need to go find them!
8. Have a good onboarding strategy for new employees
There is nothing worse than starting a new job and 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. Set goals for that week so your new employee knows what you are looking for them to achieve. Don’t think you can just hire someone and give them the keys to the business so you can go do something else, thinking that they will be able to work away without your input.
The more support you can give, 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 really matter? You don’t want to become a full-time micro-manager of this person and teach them all your bad habits. Let them go away and research their own solutions, because there might be far better ways of doing things than the way it’s always been done before, and at the same time they will take ownership of the process.
A bullet point recap of what we’ve covered in this article:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 they are doing it for another company. Use LinkedIn to start a conversation with someone about offering them a new challenge.
- 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. 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.
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