There’s no time like the present to take on the right staff
“Taking the leap of faith to grow your staff complement is a step best made sooner rather than later, if you’re going to grow your business”, says Geoff Prissman, director and co-founder of Slo-Jo, creator of tailor-made taste sensations for South Africa’s leading restaurant chains.
When you’re building a small business, one of the bravest steps you’ll take is to recruit your first employee, followed by your second. Many entrepreneurs postpone this first big growth step for as long as possible believing that they need to develop ideas first, make money first, and then bring on the right people to encourage growth.
I’ve also seen so many entrepreneurs who start businesses to fund the lifestyles that they would like to live, and only think about taking on more people when they need more income.
I believe that these are both the wrong approach. In our experience at Slo-Jo, we’ve found that the longer you wait to hire the people that you need to make your business grow, the harder it is to come up with new ideas, and to grow your turnover and profits – simply because the people you really want are the ones that are going to help you expand your ideas and shift your paradigms.
We learned this after a five year period of growth in our business was followed by a plateau that we just couldn’t move beyond because we were so busy running the business that we just didn’t have capacity to come up with great new ideas ourselves. We also didn’t think that we had the financial wiggle room to take on more people or invest in new projects.
It was only when we took a deep breath and realised that we might have to take 10 steps backwards financially and take on new people, purely so that we could have what (and who) we needed to take the next 100 steps forwards. If you bring on the right people early, your business will have solid foundations built with the right skills and values. More importantly, you will build a culture of sharing and backing people, rather than a culture of micromanaging and jack-of-all-trades learning, until you, as the business owner, are forced to let go before you can reap the rewards of growth.
If I were to offer my top tips for making sure that new hires are effective and add value to your business, I would say:
Make sure that they share your key personal values. At Slo-Jo, we look for integrity, honesty, ambition, and a burning desire for personal growth.
Once you’ve found right people, you have to communicate all the time, in many ways. Make sure that your team understands what you’ve said beyond the words that are coming out of your mouth, that you stop to make sure they understand what you’re asking, and that they’re equipped to make it happen.
Share your goals, vision and culture at every opportunity, and don’t just assume that everyone knows what they are. Importantly, make sure that your whole leadership team knows what these are too. We learned some of the most valuable lessons in our 10 year history by working with a change management coach, who helped us connect all the individuals in the company.
It’s particularly important in a small organisation for everyone to understand one another’s weaknesses and strengths, but leaders need to be as accountable as everyone else for these, if the business is to achieve success.
Training is crucial, at every level within the company, and it’s important for the leadership team to at least have a peripheral idea of what each team does. It’s the only way they’re going to understand the value that everyone brings, and the only way that they can know when to realistically demand more of their teams.
Accountability is vital. While we work in teams, and as one big team, if people don’t understand how they’re individually accountable for shared goals, then teamwork can be a cloak that covers up incompetence.
Most importantly, if you’re willing to break any part of the budget in your small business, break it by employing the best possible people you can find. If you don’t get the best people on the bus from the beginning of your journey, your growth will be limited – if your business even survives.