Unless you are starting a micro-work-from-home business, you are likely to be hiring staff when you start your small business.
It is tempting to follow the conventional route and figure out what skills you need to have in your business to support you, and then advertise for those skills, and hopefully find someone who can do the work. Then, as your business grows, you do it again.
However, as a first-time employer, and in a new business, this can have some risks attached.
Firstly, if you hire someone now, will they still be required in a few years’ time once the business has grown? Or will the skills required have grown as well? Then, how confident are you that the skills the candidate shows suits the purpose, especially as the position is new and you have nothing to compare it against? Perhaps they show the right qualifications and experience on their resume, but how do you judge character, will they “fit” in with your style? Will the candidate show responsibility in the tasks you want them to be responsible for?
Many startup small business owners take the plunge, gradually learn from experience, and get better at it. But that is a long and painful journey on the road to finding the right people.
So what if you turned the model on its head and instead of relying on conventional business practice, relying on what you do know – your vision and your reading of people’s attitudes?
I have an unconventional way to look at hiring staff for your small business startup.
It is based on setting up a picture of what you want your staff structure to look like at the end of the day, not now at this early time in the life of your business.
And it is based on hiring the right attitude, not necessarily the right skill.
Let’s start with the first unconventional basis, that you should design what your staffing structure will look like at the end, rather than who you need now.
This allows you to plan for the big picture. Identifying who you will eventually need means that you can select people who can fit into, or grow into the required positions over time. You certainly want to avoid a revolving door of changing staff if you want stability and corporate experience as your business grows.
This philosophy also gives people a career path, where they can see a continuing future for themselves in your business, motivating them to be loyal and consistent.
To do this, picture the vision you have for your business and then start to draw an organisation chart, which is basically an upside-down tree drawing, showing the chief at the top, and the “departments” or functions under the boss and the people who populate those functional areas. This might include people who work in administration, sales and marketing, production, and so on. Then, in each area there might be sub-functions, for example under Administration there may be a finance area, a reception and office staff function, and so on.
You can download my free worksheet on how to draw your organisation chart here.
Once you have done that, you should write Position Descriptions for every position shown in your diagram.
Position Descriptions are a written statement of each position’s role and responsibilities. They should contain: –
- Job Title
- Who they report to
- Who they are responsible for or who reports to them
- The position’s objective (and how this helps in the business objectives)
- Their daily duties
- Their responsibilities within those daily duties
- If appropriate, measures of their effectiveness in meeting their responsibilities and objective
If you are clear about all the things on the list, the staff member should be able to operate almost autonomously, especially if your business systems include procedures about how they fulfil their daily duties.
The first three items set out where they sit in the business – and these should align with the organisation chart.
The position’s objective, and how this helps with the business objectives tells them why they are there. For example, your Sales Manager’s objective may be to manage a productive Sales Team that retains existing customers and adds 20% of new sales every year. This helps the business objectives of providing services to your target market and growing from year to year.
Their daily duties list is just a list of what they should be doing every day. In the example of the Sales Manager, this may include organising the team’s work for the week, monitoring results of each Salesperson, creating sales initiatives once a month and implementing them, and so on.
Their responsibilities within those daily duties identify what they are allowed to do while carrying out their duties, and what they are responsible for within those duties. So, again in the case of the Sales Manager, their responsibilities may include “ensuring the Sales Team achieves sales increases of 20% per year.” This means that they cannot just rest on “organising their team”, they must actually ensure that they do whatever is necessary to meet the sales targets. In this case, they may even be authorised to hire and fire sales staff in order to achieve the targets.
Finally, defining measures means that their performance can be quantified. Clearly, achieving 20% increases in sales is the target, but the Sales Manager’s performance can also be measured by balancing it with “maintenance of 10% or less turnover of staff.” In using this balancing measure the Sales Manager can’t abuse their hire-and-fire delegation.
It may seem overkill to you to draw up your “final” organisation chart and write every position description at the start of your business. After all, it may change as your business grows, and your direction alters. Here’s why I think it is important to do this now.
- It will save you time – as your business grows, you will only get busier and busier. If you had to stop and think about what skills you need every time you needed them, then figure out where they fit into your structure, then take the time to write their position description, you would not have the time to do this properly in the thick of it. Doing this at the start when you have time, and when you have a good idea of what you want to achieve in your business, saves you time later.
- It aligns with your Vision – you should, at the start, have defined your business Vision, your purpose, mission and objectives and what you want your business to look like in the future as you attain your vision. Therefore, drafting your organisation chart now will save you time later because you will already be prepared with the type of people you need in the right positions.
- It gives you clarity into the future – as you decide it is time to hire more staff, other staff already know who is coming and where they fit, and who is responsible for them. There’s no need to explain to your team what happens every time someone new is hired. When you hire staff, you can show them where you are heading organisationally and give them the comfort of knowing their potential progression in the team.
- It is flexible – sure, it might change, but unless you change your business model entirely, any change is likely to only a tweak where perhaps you move a position from one branch to another or you edit duties and responsibilities. If you decide to expand operations, you can add a whole new branch.
My second unconventional basis of hiring staff for your small business startup is to employ a technique where you evaluate staff weighted on whether they can fit into the culture of the business you are going to build.
So, this technique means that when you interview staff, you ask a series of questions that first help you decide if they have the skills and experience you ask for, then whether you think they can do the tasks and responsibilities you are setting, and finally whether they can do the job in your business.
Ultimately, you can teach skills, and you can give them experience, but you cannot teach or give them the right values and attitudes.
So, the questions are based around: –
- Can they do the job?
- Will they do the job?
- Will they do the job here?
You should prepare template questions for your interview procedures in advance, and amend them for the positions you are interviewing for.
These are the sorts of questions I use in my own templates.
First, in order to see if they can do the job, I ask questions around:-
- Explaining the type of work they have been doing
- What kind of supervision they get
- Who they supervise
- What they produce as outcomes
- Their qualifications and other experience
Then in order to see if they will do the job, I ask questions about:-
- What they want in their career
- What goals they have
- What are their interests in the job
- What excites them about the job
Finally, I ask questions to see if they will do the job here:-
- What kind of employer do they seek to work for
- What kind of people do they like to work with
- What their personal values are
- How they think they can contribute to your business
Each of the key points may be covered by 2 to 5 questions each, to make sure you get a full and rounded picture of whether they can do, the job if they want to do the job, and whether they will fit in with the business. The series of questions for each key point may start with an open question (“Tell me about…”) then follow-up questions might dig deeper or clarify their responses. The use of scenarios can be useful where you ask them to tell you about a time when something happened and how they dealt with it, or where you put forward a scenario and ask them how they would deal with it.
Using these two bases of choosing your staff may be unconventional but they provide a far greater chance that you will choose the right people who will work with you, be loyal, and can grow with you. Indeed the conventional approach is to take the duties and responsibilities and check if the candidate is qualified to do them. This, however, does not tell you if they are motivated to do those tasks, nor if they will fit in with the way you want to do things in your business.
As a first-time employer and in a new business you need more than at any time, to ensure that the staff you hire are suitable and will work with you for a reasonably long time.
You can get your free information pack and worksheets to create your organisation chart here. It provides an example and clear instructions, and the worksheet walks you through each step on how to write your organisation chart.
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