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Hiring Well: Lessons from the Scared and Scarred

by Melanie Spring on June 7, 2011

Not Hiring Sign This is Part 1 of a two-part series

Almost every new business starts out with the same goals: get clients, get busy, hire people, and make millions… right? The problem with growth is pain.

Sisarina recently set out on a journey to find two new employees. What we found was a plethora of incredible people. Want to know how we made it happen? Pain – good pain from growing, and bad pain from doing it incorrectly in the past.

As a small business, hiring is the most daunting task you can undertake.

Hiring isn’t about just finding the right person and putting them into a position. It’s about all the scary little things that can happen when you have to start paying them, managing them, making sure you put them in the right role, paying taxes, paying unemployment… the list goes on.

Don’t be scared. We promise you that every single new business owner is terrified when he/she hires the first person. If they aren’t, they find the pain shortly after.

In this post I’m going to talk about lessons learned from past mistakes. Here goes:

In April 2009, I found myself a new business owner. My previous boss had asked what I would do if he couldn’t pay me anymore and offered to send me his leads for a commission. I happily took him up on his offer and set up shop in my bedroom with my dog, Bailey. Sisarina opened for business May 1st and the client leads started pouring in. I was lucky, I didn’t have to start from scratch.

The problem: I couldn’t keep up with all of it on my own. I had a part-time developer, two part-time designers along with a pile of accounting and administrative tasks that I couldn’t keep up on while managing projects.

It was already time to find someone to help with the stuff I couldn’t keep up with so I could do what I set out to do – project management & client development. I did what any new business owner would do – I asked my friends if they knew someone who could help. Fortunately a friend recommended chatting with my pastor’s wife, Teresa Thomas.

She started helping me 10 hours a week while teaching at the church preschool. We worked out of the church offices to give us more space to spread out while Sisarina was still young.

Lesson #1: Start small and hire for things you absolutely can’t do yourself while utilizing all assets you can to save money.

Fast forward a few months to what I thought was the need for a part-time project manager. I was busy getting clients and thought it would be better for me to have someone else managing projects. One thing I realized later was that I didn’t really have the pain, I just thought it would be there soon.

Hiring a project manager didn’t work out the way I hoped due to hiring for enthusiasm instead of skill.

Hoping it was just the position and not the wrong fit, I changed the position to a marketing role. Fear of unemployment and letting someone down far outweighed my business sense. I made it personal, when it was really a business decision. In the end, it came down to a lack of desire for helping a business succeed and became about a paycheck.

Lesson #2: Business is business. Hire people who will stand by you through anything & learn from your mistakes.

About six months after making two hiring decisions that didn’t go well, I had an big beautiful office with two people in it and was terrified of ever hiring again. I had let myself and others down. I had a staff of freelance designers, a full-time developer who worked fully behind the scenes and no real reason to hire more.

Teresa moved into a full-time role to help out more and organically moved herself from administrative work into projects. Her desire to help clients and finish projects fit her implementation skills and patience well. She was enjoying her new-found skills.

Lesson #3: Allow your employees to grow based on what they love to do. They’ll find passion in their job & do it better.

These were three big lessons I learned when hiring the first time around. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll go into more lessons learned (yes!), but this time, from the present.

Image: GoTRISI via Flickr, Creative Commons

More from Women Grow Business:

Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.

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