Hiring Someone...

Azriela Jaffe If I want it done right, I've got to do it myself!" That's the motto of thousands of solo entrepreneurs in this country, as well as, unfortunately, equal numbers of employers who hire employees but then in fear, hold back from delegating key responsibilities that would lighten management's load.

This letter came to me from a Southwest entrepreneur who has been in business for herself for seven years. She reported to me that after reading my book on business partnering, "Let's Go Into Business Together," she was thoroughly convinced that taking in a business partner was not for her. As her business has reached the maximum that can be generated with her efforts alone, and she has tired of regularly outsourcing work, she has decided to hire her first employee.

Here's an excerpt of her email:

"I am torn about whether I need a clerical person or a more professional level person. I do many clerical tasks but each one feels like it would take longer to tell someone how to do than to just do it. For example, I spend 3-4 hours a day reading and responding to e-mails from clients and associates. I would love to turn that over to someone else but they'd have to ask me what to say, how to say it, what price to quote, etc.

"It seems like what I need is someone who is very professional whom I can train to take calls, talk to clients about our services, manage the flow of work coming in and out, and also do some clerical stuff like file and send out info packs. I'm troubled though by the thought that it will take me so long to train someone new, it will actually detract from my work output, and be more trouble than it's worth, never mind the expense I'd be incurring! And if I turn over client contact to someone who is not as competent or proficient in this business as I am, they could hurt my business, rather than help it. What do you think?"

You need to be looking one or two years down the road, not three-six months. Looking through a short-term lens, a new employee is almost all burden and risk. If you knew for sure that you'd only have this employee for a short time, you'd naturally only give that person the most menial of tasks with little contact with your clients. You might consider such a person if you had a sudden large job, or, if your business has a predictable busy season that requires a slew of temporary workers to get through the season. ( Like retail stores do for the Christmas season).

In your case, your reason for hiring someone is an intention to grow your business beyond the limits of your capabilities, and also, to reduce the regular 60-80-hour work-weeks you've been incurring to keep up with current demand. It's not reasonable to hope for a solution to that problem without investing your energy. Think of it this way: If you determined that your field required a graduate degree, you wouldn't expect to get that degree in just a month or two of study, would you? If you decided to expand your business into a new niche, you wouldn't expect to accomplish that with only a few months of effort, right? You would understand that any business restructuring or training beyond the superficial would necessitate patience, persistence, and several months of your time. Hiring an employee, especially your first one, falls into this category.

If you ask the question, "will a new employee take up more of my time than he or she will give in the first few months?" the answer is 'Yes!' If you ask, will a new employee properly trained enable me to reduce my working hours, spend my time doing the work I really want to be doing, and expand the business beyond my own limits?," the answer is also "Yes."

So, to answer your question, clerical or professional, and how much contact should he or she have with clients? That depends on your goals over the next few years, and how much time you are willing to invest in training that individual. Do you want someone more or less expendable, who will be replaced each year, or do you want to give someone a professionally rewarding career so he or she will hopefully remain in your employ for several years?

You can't expect long-term loyalty if you give an employee a dry, boring, and meaningless experience. Put yourself in that person's place. What would you want if you were going to be employed in one place for longer than a year? If you want the reward of employee longevity, you'll need to take the risk and put in the effort.


Azriela Jaffe is the founder of "Anchored Dreams" (www.isquare.cim/crlink), and author of several books including Honey,I Want to Start my Own Business, A Planning Guide for Couples ( Harper Business 1996), and Let's Go Into Business Together, Eight Secrets for Successful Business Partnering (Avon Books 1998) and Starting from No, Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business (Dearborn, April 1999), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt (MacMillan, 2000) (www.amazon.com).

Category: Entrepreneurship
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