The how-to’s of hiring your first employee

Updated on 4 November 2014

Subscription Form (#66)

The how-to's of hiring your first employee

Starting a new business can be daunting especially for a small business owner, which is why hiring staff members are crucial to get the ball rolling.
Most entrepreneurs start our alone and as a result become skilled multitaskers, however at some point they will require assistance. The first hire can be challenging for small business owner as the first person or group of people you hire will not only be tasked with fulfilling your vision, but will also be responsible for building the company culture. As a business owner you will have to answer questions like who to hire first, or if you should cut costs by hiring family members or friends instead.

“Small businesses need candidates who can pick up the baton and run with it without constant supervision”

According to Kay Vittee, CEO of recruitment agency Quest Staffing Solutions, small businesses should hire people with the right skill-set, and who have multiple skills to offer, rather than hiring a specific number of people.

“You may be lucky enough to find a number of these skills in one person or – on the other end of the spectrum – one person may only have one particular skill to offer.”
Who to hire first
When deciding on who to hire first, Vittee says the skills most small business require the most are leadership; someone to manage the business. The next would be skills to market and sell the product or services of the business, and the skills to deliver on sales.
“Let the company grow organically, one or two at a time, and as demand requires,” she advises.
Other positions and even entire departments, Vittee says, can be outsourced for the short and even long-term, to those who specialise in the specific fields like recruitment, HR, payroll and tax services etc.
Here are Vittee’s 8 helpful tips for hiring your first employees:

  • Make use of recruitment agencies: If recruitment is not your specialisation, let the experts do what they are best at while you focus on your core business operations and bottom line objectives.
  • Make your expectations clear: When working with your recruitment agency, tell them that you want to have the final say on which candidates you employ and don’t ignore your gut feel in the process of selecting.
  • Hire people who have experience in the SME environment: Hire people who have managed no one or small teams, and or people from smaller organisations.
  • Hire relevant experience: Work experience should be defined in terms of specific achievements and not necessarily in terms of years. For example, an accountant with five years’ work experience does not necessarily have a track record ideally suited to your company’s operating needs.
  • Hire people who can handle the hurdles: The small business environment is a cut throat one. As with all startups, your business will have to compete for customers. Look for candidates who are driven and who thrive in a competitive and fast-paced environment.
  • Hire people who will persevere: Small businesses face constant challenges and therefore need to hire unwavering employees who do not give up when faced with disappointment.
  • Hire candidates who do not need to be micro-managed: Rather hire people who can manage themselves. Small businesses need candidates who can pick up the baton and run with it without constant supervision.
  • Take a ‘working Interview’ approach: Hire staff from a recruitment agency, on a contract basis, and let them work for you. Use this time to assess their performance and fit. This reduces risk of employing a person who will not add value to your business.

About the author: Kay Vittee is the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions (Pty) Ltd one of South Africa’s leading staffing solutions provider. She’s a business woman holding a Masters in Business Administration, a B.Com (Banking and Economics) and various other financial and marketing qualifications. Kay’s business acumen and success have made her a sought after speaker and thought leader.

Get Weekly 5-Minutes Business Advice

Subscribe to receive actionable business tips and resources.

Subscription Form (#66)

Feeling Stuck?