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Expanding your workforce
by David O'Brien

A growing business reaches the point where it needs to expand its team. A mistake many business owners make is to hold on to too many tasks because they are afraid of investing in recruitment and afraid of trusting anyone else to do the job as well as they can. This can lead to a situation I like to call the owner’s trap: where the business owner spends all their time working in the business on day-to-day tasks and too little time working on the business, that is steering it towards growth. This leads to stress, burnout and ultimately limits the value of the business. After all, you can’t sell a company that doesn’t function without its owner.

 

So how do you know when is the right time to take the plunge and expand the workforce? One guide is perspective. Where do you want your business to be in five years’ time? If it is still just you, then there is no need to recruit. But if you see an expanded business with five or 10 employees, you’ll need to be recruiting at a rate of one or two people per year. Leaving recruitment until you are absolutely snowed under can lead to bad hiring decisions, so plan when you are likely to need additional resource.

 

Expanding your workforce doesn’t have to mean recruiting full-time employees. Part-time workers can give more flexibility and outsourcing can be a good option for tasks including admin, social media marketing, equipment maintenance and other non-specific areas of work.

 

Once you decide to look for someone to add to your team, it is important to take the time to clearly define the business need. What do you need this new person to do for the business? Write a job specification which outlines the key elements. Just as important is a person specification, outlining the skills and behaviours that are important. Do you want someone who is meticulous in following processes or someone who can make their own decisions? Someone who is great at meeting new customers or someone who goes the extra mile to look after existing customers? For a small business, the type of person you recruit is key – tasks and processes can be learnt.

 

Newer businesses often recruit friends or family as an easier option – you know what you are getting and already trust the person. But are you confident that you can manage them as an employee whilst maintaining your friendship? Choosing a person and then building a role around them can be dangerous. Many family businesses end up dysfunctional, with too may square pegs in round holes, trying to keep everyone happy.

 
The ultimate goal of any recruitment process, once you have clearly defined the business need, is to answer three questions: Can this person do the job? Will this person do the job? Will they fit in? In other words: ability, motivation, personality.

 

An effective selection process is the key to building a good team around you. Once you have new team members on board, it is important to invest in their development. Make sure you have an induction programme in place. This doesn’t have to be too time-consuming, but introduce the new employee to ‘how we do things around here’ and be clear on what is expected of them. Give them the opportunity – and time – to learn everything they need to do their job effectively.

 

Have a process for reviewing progress regularly. If clear expectations or targets have been agreed, check in on these on a monthly or at least quarterly basis. It may become necessary to revise roles as the business grows. Regular two-way communication is key to building trust and, if you have selected the right people, new blood should bring new ideas and energy into your business. In the long run, building a high-performing team of people that you trust will allow you the time to develop new opportunities and grow a strong, valuable business which gives you a return on your hard work and options for your future.

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