When Do I Hire My First Employee (and for What?)
For lean startups, entrepreneurs tend to have one employee:
Assuming your business grows and moves forward, there will come a time that you’ll need to hire someone else. It’s a big decision that you don’t want to rush into, resulting in a poor choice.
That said, wait too long, and you can seriously damage your business.
So the question is, when do you do that? And for what position exactly? Let’s start with that second question.
Who Should I Hire First?
Make no mistake, your initial employee is incredibly important. They will be the foundation for your company’s culture, and they will set the standard for future employees. The exact position you hire for will depend on what kind of company you’re running.
It may be for a role you’ve been doing a lot, but you know you’re not good at it. The position might be something you’ve been paying a contractor or a third party to do, but with the current level of demand, you’d save time and money by hiring the position.
The person you hire should share the values your company has. They need to be flexible and teachable, ready for change as it comes. Change is constant in the life of the startup. They should be stable, mentally and emotionally.
Whatever you’re hiring them fo, they should display more skill (or at least more potential) than you in that role.
You don’t want someone who’s the same as you or weaker than you. Instead, the employee and their position should complement you. Be the yin to your yang and all that jazz.
When Do You Hire Them?
There are signs that it’s time to hire someone. First and foremost, if you have more work than you can handle, now is the perfect time to hire.
Your first hire will likely put some strain on your financials. You need to make sure the path to growth is promising, should you hire someone. If they can help you earn more, then they should cover the cost soon enough.
Contractor or Employee?
If you’re unsure about bringing on a fulltime employee (you should know, there’s quite a bit of paperwork to be sorted), you can try bringing someone on as a fulltime contractor. From there, you can decide how well they fit, and whether you would like to make them an official part of the company or not.
Do What’s Best for the Company
When you’re running a business, especially one that’s experiencing growth and success, there will likely be pressure to give work to friends and family. You need to be cautious, especially when it comes to your first employee.
Ultimately, it’s about doing what’s best for your company. Your business doesn’t exist to give your sister’s son a job. It exists to fulfill a marketplace need. To do that well, you’ll need to hire the best person for the job.
What About the Next Employees?
Though the idea of having an office (whether physical or digital) filled with employees is enticing, you should never be in a rush to hire for the sake of hiring. And you should never bring on too many people at once.
Anytime you bring in someone new, there’s a period of transition that happens both for the company and the person. Let that play itself out before bringing on the next hire.
The company Basecamp (formally known as 37Signals) is known for the expression “hire when it hurts”. Simply put, do everything you can before hiring someone. Whether that’s working harder, shifting responsibilities, upgrading software, etc.
Then, when you’ve exhausted all other options, you can hire someone, whether it’s your first employee or your twentieth.
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