I started my business right at the beginning of the Great Recession of 2007. Who could anticipate more perfect timing? As luck is part of my story, there were ample opportunities for me, even during those turbulent times. My adult son was also caught up in that financial crisis and as my enterprise grew, for lack of a better job, soon found himself drafted into the now family business. He became my first employee and has turned out to be a great first hire, as risk free as you can get.
Five years later however, the business has continued to grow and we find ourselves working long hours to keep up. While gaining new clients and continuing to experience business growth is gratifying, there is a limit to the amount of work that two hard working people can do. It's time to hire another person. Someone I don't know. A Real Employee.
This was not easy to say or do. The road ahead was bumpy, full of distractions and riddled with the fear of risk.
Lack of decisiveness
I struggled with the decision of how to handle my growing business for a long time. For a while my strategy was to get more efficient, reduce travel time and improve organization. All of these tactics needed to be done and did help, but didn’t solve the problem.
I then wavered back and forth; scale down or hire? It seems like a no-brainer now, but I was petrified. All of the risks kept cycling through my mind. Could I afford to give someone a job through business ups and downs? Could I pay them enough? Would I have enough work for them? Could I mange well? Would I hire the right person? And the really big one: Would my new hire use me to learn the business only to walk off, start their own business and take some of my clients with them?
I finally concluded that being indecisive created risks and I was taking those risks by default. In the day to day slog of getting things done, we sometimes forget the wisdom of the ages. One day, I don’t remember who or when, someone said, in a different context, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Those magic words flipped my indecision on its head and ended my internal debate. The truth is, I will survive the worst things. The inverse is also true. I will thrive, personally and professionally, if the best things happen. Why was I letting fear of the worst things stop me from making the obvious best decision for me and my business?
Waiting too long
Waiting too long to hire is another form of taking risk by default. Not having adequate staff means being over-committed and overworked, which can lead to mistakes, compromised client services and lost clients. Your personal life goes down the drain and you could potentially be putting your health at risk along with your business. Fortunately for me, I didn’t suffer any long term negative consequences as a result. Looking back, this is a position and a set of risks I don’t want to relive, primarily because they are unnecessary when you consider the upside of hiring the right person.
Underestimating needed hours for my new hire
I moved forward and found the perfect candidate for my firm, really by luck. But I underestimated the number of hours I needed from my new team member and the amount of time it would take to get that person acclimated to her new job.
Even though I boldly went where I was hesitant to go before, all of my fears did not vanish into the night! The advantage of being an employee is consistency, work and a paycheck you can rely on. I wanted to be sure I could deliver that. Unfortunately, I grossly underestimated the number of hours I actually needed. In addition to the work that needed to be done, I didn’t factor in the time I needed to train and acclimate my new team member to the job. Some experts say that getting a new employee up to speed can take from 90 days to 6 months.
Hiring an employee to solve under staffing problems is not a quick fix and will continue to push the risks of waiting too long as that person gets up to speed. The solution takes even longer to manifest itself when you underestimate the time required. In hindsight, act sooner, rather than later and over-estimate the needed hours.
Making time to work on my business
Now that I’ve traversed the great divide and have officially become an employer of someone who is not a family member, I realize the huge upside potential for my business. That upside isn’t going to manifest itself by magic. To make things happen I need to be working less “in” and more “on” my business. I haven't found my sweet spot yet, but hiring a new staff member has opened up the potential for opportunities that I previously didn’t have time to even think about.
Our first real, non-family employee has turned out to be a great addition to our team, a successful new hire that I attribute to luck and good fortune. Like anything, there's always a first time which every wise person knows is to be used to perfect the next time. There will be a next time, I'm already thinking about it.
Vickie Robertson is owner and manager of Robertson Bookkeeping Solutions, and part of a great three person team providing QuickBooks and bookkeeping services.
Linkedin: Vickie Robertson