December 9th, 2019 · 4 min read
What’s the old saying? “Some people are born great, while others have greatness thrust upon them.”
So it is with small business. Some owners start off determined to grow, sure, but equally determined to remain a sole practitioner. Others — most? — see hiring as a part of their expansion plans from the outset.
Here’s where the saying comes in. Either type of business owner may have to hire, like it or not. For the reluctant staffer-upper, it’s an undertaking that will turn out best if it comes with the determination to do it right. For the entrepreneur who has had hiring in view all along, hiring your first employee still imposes best practices that are worth heeding.
For a small business owner in financial services, the lean and (so to speak) mean “solopreneur” approach may work with help from tech vendors and outsourcers. Or it may get hectic as the constant need to switch hats starts eating too deeply into the owner’s time, especially her time with clients. It’s not uncommon at this juncture for an advisor previously bent on doing it all single-handed to switch gears and start looking for help.
But finding the right person isn’t easy. You want someone trustworthy, an independently motivated person who can handle the job assigned to them with minimal supervision so you can do the work that benefits your business the most.
You may not realize it, beavering away there by yourself, but in the course of working with your clients, you and they have created a culture together. That culture shows up in everything from how you answer the phone to the clothes you wear, the services you provide (or don’t), the products you offer (or don’t), and the extent you socialize with your clientele. Your hire has to fit in with that and be comfortable fitting in.
You also have to understand that if your clients have grown accustomed to speaking with you directly, adding someone new to the mix can unsettle them, and make them wonder if the presence of a “gatekeeper” — not that you meant to hire one — signals they’ll get less of your personal attention going forward.
To calm your clients then, and remind them a new hire is to their benefit and as a testament to the strength of the enterprise they chose to work with, it’s a good idea to let them know you’re hiring, and what sort of role you’re looking to fill. Who knows, in addition to calming nerves and assuring clients the hire is intended to increase efficiency and provide a better overall client experience, an item like that in your quarterly newsletter might generate some placement leads.
Once you get down to the search, take your time. Have as many conversations and email exchanges with candidates as you can. Communication helps in identifying people whose fundamental ideals about the business you’re in mirror your own. This will support your firm’s culture, and help maintain continuity as clients get used to working with a bigger team. The type of employee you hire also has implications for your business culutre such as hiring an in-house workforce vs. hiring remote, full-time vs. part-time, or contractor vs. employee. (The Rise of Self Employment in America)
It may in fact help to graft in a probationary period to make sure the new hire is a good fit for you and your clients. And, frankly, that’s a two-way street. No job description ever written can replace a month or two of real experience. A trial-run can be also be capped with incentives to encourage them, and help them see their new job can be rewarding.
A trial period — and background checks beforehand — can help you gauge how much trust you can put in your new colleague. After all, they’ll be hands-on with your clients’ personal information.
For your hire, especially your first hire, you shouldn’t go entirely on gut instincts, nor should you approach it like you’re Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise. The decision has to make some logical sense, but sometimes a candidate who needs a little mentoring is worth considering.
In fact, you could have to choose between a candidate with extensive experience, or someone who, though a little green, hasn’t become thoroughly molded by previous experience in the industry at other firms. In this light, you might want to consider someone who can grow with your firm — especially if they show signs of the tenacity it takes to adapt to new circumstances.
In short, being open to candidates at different levels of experience can help you find the best hire available.