Five Tips on Hiring Your First Employee

By Samantha Garner, GoForth Institute

Whether hiring employees took you buy surprise or was part of your business plan all along, it’s not a task to take lightly. Your very first employee must fill a position that is necessary, well-planned and even fulfilling.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when hiring the first employee in your small business:

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1. Plan, plan, plan

You’ve run your business on paper before you ever started, so you might have known you’d need an employee at some point – even though, for some entrepreneurs, that point came faster than expected. Once you’ve caught yourself thinking about hiring someone, sit down, get out some paper and plan it all out. What would this person do? Do these tasks relate to each other? How would this employee benefit and grow your business? Where would he or she work? How will you pay him or her?

Consult your business mentors as well as your accountant and/or lawyer to make sure you don’t miss anything you’d need to know.

2. Consider the timing

Though you may have spent long days working and dreaming about having help, don’t rush into hiring. If you hire too early, you could find yourself giving your employee pointless tasks to fill their time. If you hire too late, you could overwhelm your employee with too many tasks. Make sure you know your business and its cycles of profit and loss, slow periods and busy periods. Make sure your employee can be busy, productive and fulfilled as much as possible.

If it turns out you can’t figure out a way to sustain a full-time employee, consider outsourcing or hiring seasonally.

3. Hire someone you’d enjoy working with

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s tempting to want the absolute perfect first employee. Don’t be swayed by skills and experience, though. These things are important, but not the full picture. Look also for someone you’d enjoy working with and vice versa. After all, it’ll be just the two of you for a while. Do you really want someone who will undermine your every decision (though differing ideas can be great for business development), or who you’d struggle to make small talk with?

Keep in mind, though, that personality shouldn’t be the prevailing criteria. Don’t forget to phone references and do a background criminal history check if required. It’s easy to be swayed by a candidate who has the necessary skills as well as a shared love of the sandwich place across the street. However, you need to protect your small business – its assets, productivity and reputation.

4. Work your network as well as traditional recruitment channels

By all means, put employment ads in the paper and online, but don’t forget your network. Let your contacts know you’re hiring, the necessary tasks and all other details. Better yet, email a PDF of the job ad around to your network. They might be able to refer a candidate to you who may not have come across your job ad on their own. Sometimes the adage of “it’s not what you know – it’s who you know” can work to your advantage!

5. Ensure you’re following the law

We know you wouldn’t intentionally break the law when hiring your first employee, but there are many legal and regulatory requirements you might not be aware of. Some examples of these are: Getting set up with Workers’ Compensation; filing for a registered Business Number if you don’t have one already (because you’ll no longer be a sole proprietorship); paying your employee in the manner outlined in your province’s employment standards legislation; and registering for a Payroll Deductions account.

Hiring your first employee can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Be prepared, plan it all out and make sure everything’s above board – and most importantly, don’t lose heart if your first employee doesn’t work out. Growing your small business is an enriching experience. Enjoy it!

Contact Samantha by email: samantha@goforthinstitute.com.

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