To get big business growth, you’ll need to grow your team.
Most business leaders understand that. But hiring is inherently risky — to cash flow, and company culture.
You can reduce those risks by making great hires that will deliver big returns on investment
To get them, experts advise being thoughtful and even meticulous when it comes to hiring. If you do that and resist the urge to fill a role quickly or based primarily on the candidate’s personality, your hires will poise your company for growth.
Start with The Finances
When it comes to business survival, cash is everything. That’s why the first step in hiring for growth is making sure you’re in a good position to do it financially.
This is particularly important for small and single-owner businesses whose margins will be especially affected by a new hire.
This EMyth business advisor has some wise words on the topic:
“It’s sometimes hard for a business owner to hear, but if your business isn’t profitable and cash positive with just you working in it, you’re not in a position to hire somebody else. If you feel you need to bring an employee on board to make it profitable and cash positive, you’re taking a big (and possibly devastating) risk.”
To figure out what you can afford, get a good handle on your operating budget. How much cash is left over at the end of the month or year — after you’ve paid yourself? This will give you an idea of what you can afford to pay any potential hires. Don’t forget to factor in the costs of benefits, taxes, equipment and office space for full-time, on-site positions.
If, after a thorough financial analysis, you realize that you can’t afford the full-time employee you were hoping for, don’t despair. There are lots of ways to grow your team that don’t require hiring someone full-time.
You may consider outsourcing individual or specialized tasks to agencies, freelancers or part-timers, for example. The key is to make sure you know exactly what you expect them to accomplish, as we’ll discuss next.
Define Success for Each Hire
You can’t be successful if you haven’t decided what success means for a potential hire.
Once you know exactly what you’re looking for and hope to achieve, you can figure out what skills and experience fit with those objectives.
Geoff Smart, author of Who: The Method for Hiring, suggests avoiding the tendency to create a profile of the type of person who you want, and have a laser-focus on the results instead.
Getting clear about what you expect will benefit both you and your new employee, both during the hiring process and after they get hired.
The hiring method detailed in Smart’s book suggests making a “scorecard” of five to seven outcomes you expect the new employee to achieve in their job. These outcomes should be challenging but attainable, and as specific as possible.
For example, one outcome for a marketing hire could be a revenue goal goals and deadlines. A customer service hire might be expected to attain a certain customer satisfaction rating.
The objectives that you choose will likely depend on the stage of growth your company is in now.
Smaller companies in earlier stages of growth tend to benefit more from hiring generalists, while companies that have already reached $20M or so in revenue typically need specialists, Henry Kim points out in this post from The Next Web.
Smaller companies are typically focused on product development and customer acquisition. They need team members who can wear lots of hats and jump in to solve problems wherever necessary.
The next stage, though, is all about building a solid infrastructure that will get the company to the next level. At this stage, Kim says a company needs “executives who have experience building teams in core functions like HR, sales, branding and finance while growing junior staff to advance professionally in the organization.”
Find The Best Candidates
Once you have an idea of what you can afford and what you want your new hires to attain, it’s time to consider where to find the best candidates. Traditional job posting sites won’t get you nearly as far as the following techniques.
Business coach Dixie Gillaspie writes for Entrepreneur that you should definitely look internally first:
“Regardless of what you hired [existing employees] to do, or how their role might have morphed since they came on board, chances are they have changed as the business grew. Perhaps they have developed a talent that is exactly what you need and you just haven’t noticed. Or maybe they’re itching to learn something new and grow into a different role.”
Gillaspie also notes that if you don’t make a way for your talented and ambitious employees to advance, they’ll certainly go elsewhere — leaving you to hire for yet another role.
Plus, internal candidates have already proven that they’re a good fit with your culture, and you know all about their track record and experience. Speaking of experience, don’t overlook an internal candidate based on lack of experience alone. Look for potential. Consider what Cliff Johnson has to say about it in this Forbes column:
“When we were building our finance team, we recruited internal employees who may not have had a strong finance background, but still had proven themselves as organized, detail-oriented and diligent. When it became evident that we didn’t have the right leadership in place to help them grow to the next level, we hired an experienced CFO to mentor employees who had reached their growth ceilings.”
Hiring Through Networking and Referrals
The beauty of reaching out to people you know and trust for potential hires is that those trusted relationships get you one step closer to high quality candidates. Of course, the best personal networks require regular, year-round work (and not just a big push when you realize you need to make a hire).
That said, even if you haven’t networked much personally, you can also leverage the networks of the rest of your staff, and even provide incentives for them to send over quality candidates.
HR veteran Liz Ryan says in Forbes that an employee referral program is a great way to take the temperature of company culture and morale; people won’t refer friends if they don’t like the company or feel like their referral won’t get the attention it deserves.
Plus, hiring friends of friends tends to create a cohesive culture and an atmosphere where people feel connected and enjoy coming to work. That kind of working environment is a great asset for a growing company.
Poaching from Competitors
Kim mentions that along with technical experience, industry experience can be a really valuable asset in new hires — especially for businesses that are trying to scale up.
For better or worse, a great way to find people with industry experience is to look to similar companies.
“Poaching executives who were core in growing a similar startup or, better yet, who work at an established company whose space you are disrupting and may be excited by a new project that offers the freedom of a startup are your ideal hires,” Kim says.
To woo an employee from another company, spend some time carefully crafting how you want your company and position to come across so you can make the best possible impression.
Partner with Other Companies
Although traditional hiring is necessary for almost every growing business, another strategy for big growth is forming alliances and partnerships with other companies.
As we noted in our full article on the topic, you don’t have to hire a full-time employee to make a valuable addition to your team. You can team up with other companies to create win-wins in branding, marketing and operations.
For some bigger businesses, this might even include a merger or acquisition.
Regardless of which strategy is ideal for growing your team right now, all the best hiring and team building requires a focus on the long-game. That includes looking for great potential hires long before you need them and anticipating what your current employees will need and want years into the future.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it for great hires that will rocket your company’s growth.