Laying The Groundwork

In developing personnel, the work takes place beforehand

Hiring the right employees is important for all companies, but for small-business owners, a bad hiring decision can be lethal.
“Strategy and execution around hiring will make or break a small business,” says Darrell Williams, founder of DuSable Capital L.L.C., a business advisory firm in Chicago. While having the right personnel in place can free up time for a business owner to work on critical tasks, a poor hire can cost entrepreneurs time, money, and even customers.

To make the best hiring decisions, long-term planning is key. The following steps can improve your hiring record long before the process even begins.

Know your vision. Before you hire anyone, understand who you are as a business owner and where you are trying to take your firm. “Ask yourself what’s your vision for the business? What makes you different from everyone else? And who is your target market?” advises Dresdene Flynn-White, an Alpharetta, Georgia-based business coach. Your answers will determine who you hire and where you look for applicants.

Document processes. While you may be clear on how you run your business, “the challenge comes in meticulously explaining to potential employees what you want them to do,” says Flynn-White. Instead of trying to remember all of the intricacies involved with the position after you have hired someone, keep track of that information as you go along. Once systems are recorded, it will be easier to identify the skill sets necessary to perform and excel in the role.

Create a board of advisers. Large companies are not the only ones that can benefit from the collective wisdom of professionals in various industries. Find people to bounce human resources decisions off of, both from within your industry and from other arenas as well. Besides helping you prioritize your hiring needs by sharing their business experiences, they may be able to refer qualified candidates.

Identify needs, not people. A common mistake small-business owners make is hiring someone they are impressed with and finding tasks thereafter, Flynn-White says. Identify tasks and responsibilities first, then determine the skill set needed to do them. That way you don’t end up hiring someone who may be great at doing something other than what your business really needs.

Hire your future. Focus on what you want your business to look like tomorrow. “If in order to get to the next level you need to start organizing, honing your marketing plan, and being more professional on the presentation of your business, then you want someone who is already at that next level,” Flynn-White says. Also, read job descriptions from competitive businesses that are more successful than yours, suggests Williams. From those, “a business owner can get a general sense for relevant background and qualifications.”

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