A Founder's Guide to Hiring
When I consult with founders about their startups, the most common question or problem asked is how or when do I hire people?
It’s common that everyone in a small company wears multiple hats but even more common is the founder(s) wears all the hats. I'm here to tell you to, "stop it". Most founders are energized, and excited but often drowning in day-to-day operations. That’s ok at the beginning but if you want grow your business, dramatically increase your profit and ultimately take over the world, you can’t do it all yourself. You need people.
To hit this point home, over the years I've found that founder run companies often hit a revenue ceiling of around $1 million. This is anecdotal but I've seen it enough where I think it's directly connected to founders unwillingness or inability (two different things) to hire the right people to help grow the business. I've written more about this subject, here.
Who do I hire first?
Hiring people is daunting and confusing, but i've found less confusing than founders think, especially if you follow this simple formula. It's actually more about where to start or who to hire first, then it becomes significantly easier.
There are two types of people you should hire first. Starting with these will enble you to quickly bring in help, start growing the business and most importantly recognize how import it is to have people helping with the day-to-day stuff. The two groups are, the easiest to hire and replacing the stuff you hate doing most.
For me, I was willing to sacrifice some profit at the beginning to hire my first team members. I never regretted it, and it quickly paid off through growth and increased profit.
Hire the easiest first
It’s just a fact, certain people are easier to hire than others. For example, it’s a lot easier to hire someone for the front desk, than it is to find a CEO to run your company. “Easy” is determined by the complexity of the position and market factors (how many candidates exist). There are 1,000's of people that can do customer service, there are 100's that can run departments.
Let me give you some examples that are most common and obvious, then you can use them to consider others in your specific company or industry.
Customer service or custom interaction is one of the top positions that fits the easy hiring category. If you’re answering all your emails, phone calls and social media posts, STOP IMMEDIATELY and hire someone to help. Customer support, simple technical support, online forum and social media responding is very important and there are a ton of people that love doing it.
The best part of a customer service job, is it can often have very flexible hours, because the expectation to respond to email is within 24 hours (although I recommend you respond sooner). A little tip. A great resource for customer service is stay-at-home Moms, they can easily work throughout the day from their homes and often have the right mindset to help people.
Other easy to hire positions are bookkeeping, personal assistants, front desk, basic project management, data entry, copywriting, and graphic design pros. If you're not aware of sites like Upwork, check it out.
Examples of positions that are much more difficult to hire and can be done in phase two, are engineers, product managers, high level marketing, and all leadership positions like managers and directors.
Hire out what you hate doing
This is counter intuitive to many founders because we are strong personalities, ambitious and willing to endure the pain of doing things they don’t like doing. Almost all founders have the same tattoo, “no pain, no gain”. Seriously, it’s a virtue but it will hurt your chances of growing a successful business. It’s sad but I’ve heard three stories of founders I know that ended up in the hospital from overworking, and this doesn't help productivity because hospital WIFI generally sucks.
I’ve not met many, or maybe any founders, that have been good at something they hate doing, so there is a business benefit to getting yourself out of that task. As an example, if you love engineering, or it’s your "happy place", as the founder it’s ok to continue focusing on direct engineering, you don’t need to be a product/engineering/project manager, hire someone to take that over.
I recommend you make a list of everything you enjoy doing, and everything you hate doing. Then outline what can fit into a full time or part time job and look to replace the tasks on the "hate" list. The key is to be honest about evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, or what you like and don't like doing. It's helpful to bring in a trusted friend or co-founder to assist with this exercise.
Of course you'll never avoid doing everything you don't like but I like to keep it to a 60/40 ratio, where you're doing 60% of what you like, and 40% of what you don't like.
For me, I am so uncomfortable and terrible at focusing on both details and linear tasks that I’m literally miserable while doing it. It’s essential for me to have good project managers and task oriented people around me to both achieve success and to keep me from jump off a building. In my current business I was "doing" the bookkeeping up to recently and learned the lesson again because it wasn't getting done properly. Now need to spend a ton of extra time with my new hire fixing it. I hired too late.
Life on the other side of hiring
When you're a drowning in the details of every aspect of the business and spending a considerable amount of time on things you hate, you have no perspective. You may even be angry or unhappy. You'll struggle to make good decisions for your business long term and not drive the business forward because you're not focusing on your strengths. I’ve personally experienced this phenomena and when I was able to get out from under the day-to-day minutiae, I doubled my business several times over.
Once you get through this stage of hiring, and you can breath again. Then you'll find hiring for the more sophisticated positions is easier and makes more sense.