When I started my first business almost ten years ago, my definition of success was how big my company could be in terms of staff. The more people I employed, the more successful I felt I would be.
Many businesses and many failures later I now understand that success has many definitions, but the least effective is how many people you employ. One of the most effective is profit. Profit and cash flow should dominate any small business’s definition of success.
In my experience, the more staff I hired, the more complicated my business became and the more difficult it became to be profitable.
Of course this isn’t a one-size fits all rule. Often an increase in staff can alleviate pressure, increase sales and make your organisation feel more whole. Context always needs to be applied, so lets apply some context.
Push To Breaking Point
In one of my businesses, I recall hiring a staff member five months after launching. We’d just signed a huge client, were set to travel abroad for a month and needed someone to hold the fort while we were away. This was a mistake.
Five months into any business you barely know what your name is, let alone how sustainable your growth is, where your major revenue streams are, or how you work with your co-founder. In hindsight, this first hire put unnecessary stress on our business too early.
What we should have done was work harder. When you think you can’t work any more, work harder. If we’d worked to breaking point and then considered hiring, we would’ve had a better understanding of our business, clients, product and each other.
Advice from the trenches: If you’re just starting out, give a lot of thought to your first hire. Who’s it going to be? What skills should they have? What type of person are they, and what will they become in your organisation? Are you hiring the best possible individual?
Hire the Right People
People often say that you should trust your gut with hiring – fantastic advice but not always easy to stick to. If you’re looking to hire quickly, then it’s going to be hard to only hire people that your gut says you should.
Advice from the trenches: When hiring, I like to ask very specific questions that tell me if they’re my kind of person and if they’re going to gel with the company ethos.
Ensuring your team works well together, fits together and understands one another is imperative to the survival of your business. Always hire the right fit, do not compromise.
Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly
Making sure you’re hiring the right people is even more crucial in South Africa where labour laws are not in favour of the employer. It’s extremely difficult to fire people. There are hoops to jump through, checks and balances and then there is the CCMA to contend with if you make any mistakes.
Advice from the trenches: This is why it is very important to not rush the recruitment and hiring processes. Hire slowly, take care, be thorough and don’t rush the ‘getting to know you’ phase of the process. It can take months of maneuvering to remove a bad egg from the team in the correct and bureaucratic way.
Ask The Right Questions
We’ve heard about Google, Microsoft and other cutting edge firms asking ludicrous interview questions to ‘understand the thinking process of the candidate’.
Personally I think this methodology doesn’t really apply to small businesses. You need to understand every person coming into your organisation and if you’re asking vague and arbitrary questions that you don’t really understand, then how do you know where they fit in?
I like to ask the following standard questions:
- What was your favourite thing about your last job? This gives insight into what the person likes to do, what types of activities they enjoy and if they’ll fit the company needs.
- Who was your least favourite person at your last job? This allows me to see where they fit into a hierarchy. Was their favourite person their boss, their co-workers, the lunch lady?
- 3. Do you have any side projects? I love to understand what my team does in their spare time and want them to engage in things other than their job. This often helps me understand if they’re self-starters and can maintain a side project or if they do the bare minimum to keep themselves engaged in their work.
It’s important to remember that people lead to processes. When there are just two of you, you might not have to worry about leave, work hours, breaks, holidays and the rest of the complications.
When you’ve got a team the complication and responsibility is exponential – once you’ve got people on your books you become responsible for their livelihoods.
Looking For Talent? Here Are The Benefits Of Hiring A Graduate
Still not convinced? Below are just some of the benefits of hiring a graduate.
Finding the right talent for your company can be tricky. You have to meet and interview dozens of applicants, and in the end none of them are the right fit for your needs. But you can remedy this by hiring a graduate. Graduates might have little to no experience but they are able to bring value to the table.
In order to improve their skills, there are graduate training courses that can help them get up to speed with the corporate world, allowing them to learn about the latest trends in your industry. One of the major perks of hiring a graduate is that they will be in touch with the pulse of the generation. Still not convinced? Below are just some of the benefits of hiring a graduate.
They can offer a fresh perspective
Graduates have just recently been in touch with the younger generation and are part of the ever-evolving technological world. They also will have been raised in a world unlike yours and some of your older staff, and so will come with new and innovative ideas on how to solve business problems.
Another important fact to remember is that someone who is fresh out of university will come with a lot of “why do you do it like this” and “how does this work” questions. This will force your company to explain your inner workings to them but also to take a look at established practices with fresh eyes. This could cause you to bring about more efficient ways of working, which is beneficial to all of your employees and your bottom line.
They are comfortable with new technology
If there is one thing that today’s generation is comfortable with, it is technology. And this is true of all graduates, which is a major benefit for your company. They will be able to navigate through new technology such as the innovations in computers and how these apply to your company.
Having employees who are able to operate and understand new software and technology is beneficial because they will be more comfortable with working online than some of your older employees. They can also teach other employees how to use this new technology successfully. Skills development training courses will equip graduates with the skills needed to function in the workplace but their own generational knowledge of computers and technology will enable them to learn quicker than others.
They are able to adapt
You will be giving a graduate their very first job, which means that they will be willing and able to adapt to your requirements. Not only this, but new graduates are more open-minded and can adapt to any situation easily and often are more willing to take on more work and opportunities.
This does not mean that you should be giving them 60 hour working weeks, simply that they will likely be more open to work extra hours and embrace opportunities to learn more in the company. Their adaptability is beneficial for industries such as technology and marketing, where everything is constantly in flux and businesses need to be able to change with the times. If they have been on any skills development training courses, adaptability will become second nature to any graduate.
They offer more potential
One of the benefits of hiring graduates is that they have more potential. This could be anything from a secondary skill that could benefit a department in your company to pure enthusiasm for their role which brings in new and creative thinking.
While experience is necessary for some sectors, a recent graduate offers potential in a unique way. They will be coming into your company without any preconceived notions about the industry and what their role should entail. And this means that they can learn and develop on the job while also bringing fresh and exciting ideas to the table. Their potential as your employee is only just beginning and you can help to shape their career trajectory and help them to reach their goals.
They already have soft skills
Because graduates spend so many years researching and writing, they will already have developed the soft skills that they need for the working world. These skills include effective communication, time-management, the ability to problem-solve and to analyse data.
This will save you both time and money because you will not have to train new employees. You could send them on courses so they become familiar with adapting to a business environment and to help them develop the skills they already have. Graduates are often highly organised and are used to taking direction, so you will be able to guide them to work in the right way to fit your company.
The Pros And Cons Of Hiring Recent Graduates For Your Start-up
Here are the pros and cons of hiring graduates for your start-up.
As a business owner, chances are you receive lots of applications from recent graduates, but you might be hesitant employing them due to a number of reasons: from lack of experience to their perceived unreliability and not having enough resources to train.
Start-ups need talented, enthusiastic individuals to help drive the business to the forefront of their market. Often passion projects and personal labours of love, start-ups most of all need someone who can buy into the vision.
As much as this could be a seasoned professional with dreams of shaking up the industry, this could also be a fresh face looking for a challenge.
Here are the pros and cons of hiring graduates for your start-up.
One of the key considerations for start-ups is keeping costs sleek and streamlined. So, from a pragmatic perspective, it’s much cheaper to hire fresh graduates than experienced staff with high expectations. So, if you need people with specific skill sets who can learn on the job, graduates are a great option..
…But, they expect more than you think.
Maybe not from salary alone, but graduates on the cusp of Gen Z have clear expectations of their workplace. This includes training, opportunities for growth, flexible working etc. All of these things come at a cost.
To graduates looking for work, a lack of workplace perks and opportunities can tip the scales against you. A recent study from the Bright Network revealed that a company’s people and culture was the most important factor when choosing a graduate role.
Cultivating a workplace that is attractive to graduates may end up costing you more than what you save in reduced salaries.
Related: When To Hire A Consultant
Graduates are free from the mental baggage of corporate life, working in silos and having to navigate office politics. As such, they are feel much more comfortable with voicing ideas, opinions and points of view.
This makes graduates potentially key resources of ideas that your company can tap into. Sure, not every idea is going to be solid gold, but you can certainty get some unique perspectives from the graduate point of view.
…However, with fresh faces comes a lack of experience.
Most fresh graduates typically don’t have experience in the working world. As such, it takes time to train them. Beyond the usual training of getting them used to the company culture and protocol, you need to teach them about working life and work habits generally. You’d be amazed at how many things you take for granted about work that some people just don’t know.
That having been said, not all graduates are so green. Some will have experience having worked summer jobs and internships, while others will be mature graduates will a career of work experience behind them.
If your start-up is a graduate’s first job, they are going to want to make a splash! Unlike people further in their careers that just want to come to work and do the job, graduates are energetic, with the drive and capacity to do more. Free from the family commitments of dependents, they’ll be more committed to work instead. This is particularly important for many start-ups where the driving attitude is to work to the job and not the clock.
…You need to keep them keen though, because that drive will push them to job-hop.
More fresh graduates are choosing freelance or part-time work instead of working full-time and keeping their options open. In fact, one in four graduates leave their job within the first 12 months. So, if you can’t maintain the momentum, you can expect to find an empty desk where a graduate once was.
The idea of a job for life has fallen out of favour. Rather than a ten year career, the average career is considered to be 6 years, and sometimes less. So when you hire a fresh graduate, it’s safe to assume that they might be using your company as a stepping stone.
But, if you can cultivate an attractive environment for graduates and help them achieve their personal career goals, while getting them to buy into your start-up vision, they could easily make your company their company.
Ultimately, it all boils down to the individual. Not all fresh graduates change their jobs in a matter of months, and not all experienced hires are uncreative, jaded people. The important thing to do is to ask the right questions during the interview and make sure that you hire the right people for your business.
4 Lessons We Can Learn From The High-Profile Firings At Disney
Knowing how to handle a toxic personality is important, but it’s even better to avoid hiring the wrong person in the first place.
These days, The Walt Disney Co. has a relatively stellar reputation. Its movies are ridiculously popular, and its image has become increasingly squeaky-clean over the years. In many ways, Disney has come the closest of almost any company you could name to accomplishing the impossible: pleasing all of the people all of the time.
Over the past year, however, the House of Mouse’s pristine image has absorbed a few dings and dents. Most recently, the company dealt with roaring controversies surrounding two personalities: Comedian Roseanne Barr and director James Gunn.
Both situations involved offensive tweets, though the context and content of those tweets were vastly different. While Barr landed in hot water for sending out racist and outlandish tweets, Gunn made headlines after some rather questionable tweets – including jokes about pedophilia and rape – that surfaced from about a decade ago.
Regardless of the circumstances, both celebrities met a swift response from Disney: Immediate termination of their contracts with the company. In this way, Disney sent a clear and consistent message to its employees: that any negative attention from potential customers would result in the loss of a job.
Interestingly, the company didn’t base its firing decisions on any skittishness about money – the ratings for Roseanne probably still would have been fine, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 undoubtedly would have still made oodles of money at the box office. Instead, the firings were fueled by risk management, with the company attempting to shift the focus off online outrage so it could proceed with business as usual.
As a public company with a family friendly reputation it holds near and dear, Disney finds itself in an incredibly difficult position when it comes to hiring. In addition to worrying about whether someone can do the job he or she has been hired to do, the company must also consider whether that person has the potential to upset the public with past or present behaviour.
In the age of social media, a vocal minority is enough to create a major headache for any company.
One wrong personality can result in big risk
No employer hires someone’s complete personality. The company hires someone who has the skills for the job in question. Barr was hired for the role she plays on television rather than for her political opinions or the content she posts on Twitter. Our personal and professional lives aren’t mutually exclusive, but sometimes the two simply don’t get along.
While most companies hopefully won’t have to handle armies of strangers dredging up old tweets, they will eventually have to contend with toxic personalities in the workplace. One bad hire can become a drain on the entire team’s energy, negatively affecting the performance of the organisation.
While knowing how to handle a toxic personality is an important part of risk management, it’s even better to avoid hiring the wrong person in the first place. This might sound easier said than done, but there are several ways organisations can navigate the hiring process without falling victim to the same pitfalls Disney did.
1. Codify and share the organisation’s goals
This should go without saying, but many companies seem to struggle when it comes to voicing clear rules for conduct and organisational goals. If there is no agreement or strong management, there is no way to solve disagreements or differing interpretations. Then, when a toxic personality comes into the mix, it can create a disastrous state of affairs.
CBS recently learned this lesson the hard way, succumbing to infighting and legal battles between corporate leaders and Shari Redstone, its controlling shareholder, over the direction of the company. Because there was no contingency plan or clear set of goals to guide the company, the next move for CBS is completely up in the air.
2. Formalise a chain of command
At the very least, an organisation should establish clear boundaries of responsibility. If there are no formal goals for each role, it’s impossible to evaluate the performance of any team member. That, in itself, is enough to cause conflict.
This type of delineation in a company can be difficult in the start-up world, where most people wear a variety of hats. Even if it isn’t possible to clearly state who is responsible for each task, it’s still possible – and necessary – to appoint an arbiter who can make decisions that end conflicts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a common solution for a variety of companies – there are an estimated 7,800 arbitrators or mediators in the United States performing these tasks.
3. Hire for attitude; train for skill
For new start-ups, sometimes one rotten apple truly can spoil the whole bunch. Because there are usually only a handful of employees in a variety of roles, a toxic individual has the opportunity to gum up the works of an otherwise functional team.
When hiring someone for a startup role, the hiring executive must take great care to ensure that each personality meshes well with other team members’. Skills can be taught, but mutual respect needs to be there from the start. This goes beyond start-ups, though. Daniel Schwartz, the CEO of Restaurant Brands International (which owns Burger King and Tim Horton’s), considers attitude when it comes to hiring, according to the New York Times. Bring in people who are willing to work hard and to leave their egos at the door.
4. Outsource tasks calling for specific expertise
Despite such precautions, hiring is a huge risk for any startup because personality fit is not always apparent at the outset. Labor contracts are often difficult or costly to set up – and just as difficult to cancel. As a result, a toxic personality becomes an anchor that is difficult to cut loose.
A contract with an external supplier, however, can be renegotiated, canceled and even revoked – at a much lower cost. This makes a start-up more flexible and helps it avoid the risk of toxicity. Entrepreneurs overestimate the benefits of in-house employees, not noticing that they’re better off delaying hiring full-time employees for as long as possible.
Related: “I Wish I’d Fired More People”
Deloitte’s Global Outsourcing Survey tells the same story: 78 Percent of respondents said they were happy with their decisions to outsource tasks. The top reasons for outsourcing in the first place? Cutting costs, solving capacity issues and staying focused on the core business. Outsourcing allows a start-up to stay nimble, and it eliminates the potential for a newcomer to ruin your organisational morale.
In many ways, hiring has become a minefield: It’s impossible for companies to anticipate every single personality clash or PR nightmare. But by using these techniques – and hiring only when it’s absolutely necessary – your company can avoid major internal dramas akin to the public firestorms Disney has weathered.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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