When should I make my first hire(s) and who to hire is a very good question and can prevent you from making a lot of mistakes when hiring if answered properly.
How many of us startups ask ourselves this question? Do we even think it’s a question worth asking? I’ll tell you one thing, every business wants to grow, and to grow you need more hands on deck – no one tree can make a forest, if you don’t believe that, ask Lionel Messi. So, it’s of a fact that as a startup, your business will need more employees in order to grow! But when is the right time to make that first hire? Only when we have the money to do so? When we want to proof to people we’re more than a startup? When is the right time to make your first hire?
So many businesses in Nigeria find themselves overstaffed; have you ever seen an overstocked fish pond? Overstaffed businesses look like overstocked fish ponds. I believe the root cause of over-staffing your business is the same as hiring your first employee at the wrong time or the wrong reasons.
Sometimes, in order to find out what is, you’ll need to find out what is not! So I’ll share with us three wrong timings and motives regarding making your first hire and questions to consider in regard to the timing and motive:
1. To bite much more than you can chew
A few startups make this mistake. They hire an extra employee (I call them extra because they’re sort of like extras in a movie, not really doing anything but they’re just there) to sort of justify their collecting more business deals than they can handle. To them, an extra hand brings in more business, which is true in itself, but is this extra hand a bottleneck or a capability? Do you have to train this extra employee in your trade? And how long do you have to train them before they can begin to produce your business standard? These are questions you should consider before hiring your first employee with this motive.
I would say, the moderate training period of an employee should be a month, at most, a month and a half. While you’re still in this startup phase, you shouldn’t bother yourself too much about training employees. Get people who have knowledge, no matter how small it is, on your field of business and training them will be easier than getting someone who has no clue about your field of business – already established businesses can do this, not you!
2. Because the ‘Big Boys’ do it that, so, why shouldn’t I?
One of the wrongest (excuse my lingo) and most dangerous motives to making your first hire(s) is this. Let me give you an example of this point. The ‘Big Boys’ in business have marketing teams, sales teams, branding team and so on and so forth, and these different teams do what they do very well and bring in good ROIs and this motivates you to also begin a sales team, branding team and marketing team. So you go into the labor market (as it’s often called in Nigeria), looking for a marketer and a sales person because you are sure of getting good ROIs because the ‘Big Boys’ get good ROIs. Don’t get me wrong, you can outsource these tasks when the needs arise but it is pointless to hire your first employee(s) based on this reason. Startups should learn how to outsource and form partnerships with other businesses –preferably other startups.
The decision to hire solely depends on your decision to diversify.
3. Because a need arises
This motive and timing can be justified easily, if not careful. I mean, it sounds simple: there’s a need in my business, why can’t I go ahead to just hire someone to handle the need and bring me more profit? I run an events management startup, it seems like events management and catering go hand in hand so why can’t I hire a catering staff as part of my team? Like I said, this need sounds very legit and sounds like only a crazy person would advise you otherwise; hold on, before you call me crazy (that’s if you haven’t already), let me tell you why you should not be in a hurry in making the decision to hire a catering staff and when will it seem right to do so:
- The catering business is a complete business line on its own. So, before you think of hiring a catering staff, these are questions to consider: Am I ready to invest in the catering business fully? Can I turn it into a business / profit stream on its own? There is no ‘one leg in and one leg out’ in any business, it’s either you’re in or you’re not! If you’re not ready to go fully into the catering business, then I’ll advice you just keep partnering with a business who offers this as their main business (emphasis on “main”) because if you claim to offer both services, that is events management and catering, and you mess up in either one of them, your brand name gets hurt.
So, except you’re fully prepared to go into a new business and prepared to diversify your business portfolio, as a startup, don’t be in a hurry to hire every time a need arises in your business.
Now we’ve seen a few wrong motives to hiring your first employee, how about who you hire and when is the right time to hire?
When and who do I hire?
A good time to hire is when you want to diversify your business portfolio. This, every startup should do! We live in an agile and adaptive world, we must learn to diversify into other businesses and to do this, we must hire employees!
As already mentioned, you don’t get into any business half way in, you go full in. So, using the example of the events management and catering services, as an events manager, you can decide to diversify into the catering business and that means investing fully into it. Now, you may not be the best cook or know how to present a good meal but in this case, the time is right to hire a caterer. The decision to hire solely depends on your decision to diversify.
Who do you hire?
As a startup, hire people who have the basics of your business – you don’t have that luxury to train on the job for so long. Go to the universities, look to hire interns – Nigeria is lacking in this sector, we don’t appreciate the capabilities of our students.
Startups should invest in interns! Interns are potential loyal employees and they bring a lot of new and creative ideas to the market that it surprises me that the average SME in Nigeria does not have at least two interns in a year to work with.
Startups should invest in interns!
Now we’ve had a clue when to hire, when not to hire and who to hire; what happens when it’s not yet time to hire but a need arises to get someone to get a job done for you? You outsource, you get into partnerships and you can hire based on short term contracts, internships, project based contracts, basically, find flexible and lean ways to get the job done, it doesn’t have to be full time; but I’ll advice until you are financially capable to hire an employee and / or except you want to diversify your business portfolio, as a startup, you should not be in a hurry to make your first hire.
You can also comment on when you think is the right time to make your first hire.
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