How small-business owners determine when it's time to hire, and the roles they need most to scale up
- While hiring is a milestone for scaling up, it can be a difficult step for entrepreneurs.
- Determining the right time to hire positive additions to your team can be daunting.
- Two entrepreneurs share their advice on when to hire and who to bring on to grow your company.
When Angela Engel launched her book-publishing company in 2019, she had extensive knowledge of book sales and marketing. However, as she scaled her business, she lacked some of the skills necessary for growth.
Within the first year, Engel hired a director of operations and acquisitions before hiring a designer, and has since expanded her team to include five employees. She also frequently works with a team of freelancers.
Engel's company — The Collective Book Studio, an independent publisher that focuses on lifestyle, cooking, and children's books — is one of 31 million small businesses across the US, 19% of which employ other individuals, according to the Small Business Administration. As additional startups pop up because of the Great Resignation and subsequent entrepreneurial boom, many founders are looking to scale by growing their teams.
While hiring is a milestone, it can be a difficult step for entrepreneurs. Determining the right time to hire, which tasks to outsource to new employees, and who would be a positive addition to the team can be daunting.
Understand your business and personal bandwidth
Engel said the first step founders should take before growing their teams is to ensure they're fully immersed in their respective businesses. When she launched The Collective Book Studio, she was freelancing on the side, which pulled her away from her company. She suggests founders put all of their time and energy into the business, despite risks.
Once she made running The Collective Book Studio her full-time priority, she understood every aspect of the operation, from acquiring stories to creating the illustrations. She realized her own bandwidth — in both skills and time — only after putting herself in that position.
For example, Engel learned she needed somebody who understood graphics and illustrations. "There are some employees I have to hire because I don't have those actual skills," she said.
Erim Kaur, the founder of ByErim, a hair-care brand, also understands the importance of delegating tasks when you're looking to scale a business.
"When I started, I did every role myself," she said. "The initial customer-service emails were from me, just signing off with a different name."
Before launching her business publicly in 2019, Kaur also sought expert insight: She hired a lab to create the final hair oils, based on her formula, to comply with the safety and legal standards that beauty products must meet so a company can sell them to the public.
"When you find yourself doing more managerial tasks rather than being a leader," it's time to hire, Kaur said in a follow-up email. "A founder is there to instill vision and help the team work towards a greater goal."
Build the backbone of your business before you hire
It can be exciting for founders to invest in growth components like marketing, but there's no point in advertising services you can't offer effectively, Engel said. That's why she first prioritized hiring for other roles, like managing editor, copyeditors, and production.
"Before spending too much money in marketing and worrying about social-media campaigns, I really focused on the backbone core of my business to make it work operationally," she said. Engel brought on a marketing associate last year and a senior marketing director this year once she had filled the other roles.
As a small-business owner, mindset matters for hires
Some positions require employees with certain qualifications — such as lawyers and accountants. Besides those specific roles, it's more important to look at the candidate's mindset, Kaur said.
"When it comes to things that don't require formal qualification, like customer service or marketing, it's about people's attitude," she said. "I always prefer a long-term mindset: someone who wants to stick and grow with the brand."
Additionally, Engel believes it's important to hire flexible candidates. Even if the company didn't hire the employee to tackle a certain task, it doesn't mean they won't have to fill in if a coworker is out sick, especially with such a small team, she said.
"It's not a corporate job," she added, "so you have to have someone who can take initiative and be willing to pivot because that's the success of a small business."
- India may require 31,000 pilots in next 20 years: Boeing
- Unlike global economy, India would not slow down: RBI article
- Tier-1 cities’ home sales is 2x of what it’s in tier-2 cities: PropEquity
- Thomas Cook India, SOTC launch Green Carpet to help companies manage carbon emissions of biz travel
- Moody's downgrades outlook for UBS to negative, after Credit Suisse take over