How to Successfully Hire Your First Employee
You remember the excitement and trepidation as you started your e-commerce business. The looks of relatives, in-laws and others with their slightly arched eyebrows, careful masks of approval (or outright disapproval) as you ventured into the great unknown to build your business.
Through your own sweat equity and perseverance, you are making this venture succeed. Which. Is. Awesome. But the 19-hour days are killing you and you can’t rise above the day-to-day enough to strategize for the future. It’s time to invest some of those hard-earned profits into buying time back for you to be the visionary again.
It’s a great milestone, even if it was hard-won. But can you really trust someone else with your business, at any level? Is it worth it to train someone, or will you just spend double the time explaining the tasks at hand versus just doing it yourself? It could certainly be easier to just do it yourself, but your stress levels should tell you: you need help.
You need a plan…
…a plan to hire. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help create the right position for your business as your first official employee.
If you only did one thing for your business, what would it be?
Take stock of yourself: your strengths, your weaknesses. What do you love to do and what bogs you down? Where are you a bottleneck in your own flow and success? For example, do you love design, creating copy, and choosing your product portfolio, but hate receipts, tax time, and invoicing? Find your non-preferred tasks and see if it makes sense to get a little help in that arena.
Take stock of the business. Break down every task that needs to be completed to have a customer find you and go from first click to final sale and shipment. Where are the inefficiencies? Where are the administrative gaps that could be filled by someone, saving you 10 or 20 hours a week to grow your business?
What are your ultimate goals?
What are the markers for your business’s success? If you have quarterly goals, what tasks can you offload that will help you sell more, increase customer acquisition and retention, and ramp up further so you can hire employee number two? Lining up your goals and where you could use the most help will encourage the right type of hire, not just the first one that applies for the position.
What can you afford?
Too many entrepreneurs hire help the first time the order flow leaves them exhausted. Unless you’re sure the trend is a consistent one, this could easily be more heartache than it’s worth. Employees require time to train and a solid workload for them to be efficient. If everything checks out so far, analyze your profits. How much financial room do you actually have? Figure out your costs for customer acquisition, website traffic, and conversions, among other business metrics. You will then see what kind of budget is feasible for hiring an employee. In turn, that can help narrow down the type of help you seek out.
What will their responsibilities be?
It doesn’t matter if your e-commerce business is being run out of your home or your garage. Everyone feels better knowing exactly what their duties are and how they will be measured. In smaller businesses, the lines between friends and co-workers can get blurry. Document your needs and expectations from them and re-visit that document regularly.
Sample tasks you might hire someone to do include:
- Packing and shipping
- Financials and invoicing
- Graphic design
- Social media and blogging
- Search Engine Optimization and Marketing (SEO & SEM)
- Customer service
Once you have the position nailed down
It’s time to think about how to bring them on board. How will you pick the right employee and then get them up to speed? It’s important you pick the right person for the responsibilities you selected. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through this process all over again, and no one wants to do double work.
Create a Training Manual
In order to keep the ramp-up time to a minimum, and to save you the endless questions in the first two months of that new hire’s tenure, a training manual is a must. And even though it might seem contrary, you should make this before you even list the opening.
A good training manual documents the general business goals, company philosophy, and the specifics about the logins and passwords they’ll need to do their job, as well as specifics on the processes that are already running well. If you’re hiring for a position that you have been doing yourself for a long time, you can obviously provide more detailed structure on the how-tos of getting the job done. If you are open to creativity or new solutions, state that in this manual as well. The very process of writing it all down may highlight important elements to include in the position or the personality traits you need in the employee. Once this is complete, you will save yourself hours of training time and relieve a lot of stress for the new hire.
If you have taken the time to create a training manual and a position plan, important and obvious questions will become apparent. Don’t automatically go for an intern or the cheapest person possible. Consider experience, personality, and the length of time you would like to retain someone. Ask for real world examples of work that show they can manage your tasks. Don’t forget to request references, as well.
If this seems like a heck of a lot of work to get to the point of making an offer, you’re right. It is. But not taking these steps leaves a high probability that you will hire poorly and regret the wasted time and resources. Hire smart and watch your trajectory skyrocket!
Onwards and Upwards.