People make businesses work.
Even in this age of automation and greater emphasis on technology, businesses still need people to run and ensure best success.
Employing someone in a small business is a big step. Whether it’s your first or third hire, or even more, you are adding a significant percentage to your workforce. When I worked for a smaller business, a serial entrepreneur, I found things mattered to me more because I was so close to the person paying my salary. I am not saying that I was workshy in a larger business, but just that you wanted to give more back in a smaller one.
So perhaps this means that I am ideally suited to working in smaller businesses. But not everyone is. How do you go about making the right hires and making them work?
Here are a few tips I have learnt along the way…
1. Think about your culture: what does your business stand for? What is your mission and vision? What are you seeking to achieve? Ultimately, understanding what you want and where you want to go with the business will help you to hire the right people to get to that point.
2. What do you offer? Do you offer career progression? Do you offer share options? Do you offer a great lifestyle? People are not just driven by money and if you can plan a good employee offer, even as a smaller business, before you go to market to search for your first or early hires, this will reap dividends.
3. Plan for growth: I have seen many businesses suffer from not planning for growth. It is a fine balance to strike between employing people and not having enough work to accommodate the new hires but if you need help with forecasting and processes, then there are many professional services available to help with this for SMEs. See https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/strategy/organisational-development/workforce-planning-factsheet as a starter for ten.
4. If someone is wrong, don’t keep them on: if someone is hired, and turns out not to be right for the business (this shows up very quickly in an SME), the best thing to do for both parties is to terminate the working relationship. This is never easy but the wrong fit is very disruptive in small teams. The government offers some good advice on this: https://www.gov.uk/dismiss-staff
5. Encourage loyalty, trust and openness: Ask people what they want. This goes back to culture but good people are hard to find and need to be retained. When your business is small, you can be open and honest and this will help working relationships immeasurably. Smaller businesses that I have worked with have done the following (as recommended by their staff):
Lunch for all people, cooked by one individual, on a Friday, paid for by the company.
Contributed to mortgages and childcare following good business performance.
Helped people to learn a language by encouraging and paying for after-work classes as a perk.
Taking the team away on holiday.
No-one starts their business as HR, finance, legal, sales, marketing, operational professionals. Often in the early days it’s about mucking in and rolling up your sleeves to get stuff done. But thinking about how you want to grow, and the kind of people you want to grow with will certainly help make a difference to how and who you recruit.
Best of luck, and don’t forget, we’d always love feedback!