New blood. Fresh ideas. Extra pair of hands. Hiring new staff is an exciting time and offers many benefits.

However, finding the right person can be a tricky process. If you get it right, you could quickly accelerate your business growth. However, if you get it wrong, you could find you are asking yourself if you made a mistake and what you’re going to do about it.

Signs you need to hire

There are many reasons why a small business might want to take on staff. Is the business expanding so fast that you simply can’t do everything yourself? Are you struggling to keep up with customer orders? Or maybe you want to capitalise on a market opportunity before it disappears.

Getting the timing right is an important factor. You don’t want to hire too early and risk not having enough work for the new employee. That’s why many businesses follow the ‘just in time’ principle for recruiting and wait until it becomes absolutely necessary.

However, bear in mind that it takes time for new staff to become productive. So, think about the role that will make the biggest impact on your business, and factor in that a new employee may need to learn the ropes or undergo training which can take upwards of 6-8 weeks. If you are lucky, you might find a self-starter that can hit the ground running and contribute from day 1, but you should factor in that “learning the business” time for any new employee.

What to consider before making your first hire?

There are many things that you will need to figure out before you rush out to advertise a position. Start with drawing up a clear job description that sets up what the role entails and the skills needed. This will be vital when screening applicants to make sure they are suitably qualified.

Then think about how much you will pay that person and how often. Should you offer just a basic salary, or do overtime, bonuses and commission come into play? There are also new rules on Workplace Pensions that you will need to be aware of. There may be minimum requirements for certain positions, such as accounting qualifications and usually, the more experience you are looking for, the more you will have to pay.

It is really important to have a sound Human Resources policy in place from the outset. This will include formal employment contracts and an employee handbook. Together, these documents clearly set out terms and conditions, such as standard working hours, rates for overtime, code of conduct, acceptable use policies for company equipment, disciplinary procedures, etc.

How do you find the right people?

Once you have made the decision to recruit and have a well thought out job description, then comes the process of actually finding potential people to interview. There are many places you can advertise and you should spread your net as wide as possible to give you the best choice of candidate.

Job boards such as Monster and are good places to start. LinkedIn offers access to a wide range of business people. Social media platforms can help to reach a targeted audience. You can also reach out to people from within your own network or the networks of people you know. A referral is a great way to find staff. Local resources such as regional newspapers/websites, community noticeboards can be useful too.

For specialist roles, you might want to approach a recruitment agency or head hunter. These will conduct the initial search for you and send details of potential candidates that match the job description. However, note that these can come with a hefty commission of up to 25% or more.

Creating a team

It is really important to build a team that believes in what you do and will champion your brand. Tightly knit teams that pull in the same direction can achieve incredible results. A golden rule is always hire people who are better than you at the day to day responsibilities of the role. This means you can concentrate on managing and supporting them whilst they get on with doing a brilliant job.

Creating the right environment for success has many aspects. It could be something as simple as providing a positive place to work, but free tea, coffee and fresh fruit also goes a long way! Alternatively, make sure everyone is motivated to do their best with a positive reward structure, team bonuses or a profit share. These added value benefits help to attract and retain good people as well as creating a more engaged workforce.

Look for candidates that will fit your company culture. If everyone works remotely, that might not suit someone who is used to working in an office. If you have a well thought out job description and advertised in relevant places, it is likely that lots of people will fit the bill in terms of experience and qualifications. The differentiating factor is often how well that person will fit into your team or to your “culture”.

Team building activities can help to build trust and bond employees together. The phrase ‘the company that plays together stays together’ is often accurate, so consider bringing in pizza once a month or take employees out at the end of each quarter.

See training as an investment

Training should be seen as an integral part of how you develop your team. Once you have found the right person and they have started work, help them continue their career progression with appropriate training.

Staff will feel more motivated if they see their employer spending time and resource on helping them to develop and nurture new skills – skills which can be put to good use in the company.

If you have a clear policy of supporting staff with studying for industry qualifications or training courses for accounting, marketing, sales or HR, then this will help make you more attractive to prospective candidates.

What if it goes wrong?

For small businesses, getting a recruitment decision wrong can have far reaching consequences. If someone isn’t doing the job to the right standard then it will cost you more and more the longer that you leave the situation unaddressed.

Many small business owners find it hard to let go of someone and often delay the decision for weeks or months. Possibly this stems from a sense of responsibility to the member of staff in question, particularly if you have got to know them as an individual.

You have to put emotion to one side and be rational. If the employee has been given sufficient chances to turn things around, then sometimes you have to accept that a change is needed, no matter how nice a person they are or how difficult a decision it may be. Staff that hang around too long can negatively impact other staff too.

Follow proper procedure

You need to have a justifiable cause for releasing an employee. There are many reasons such as unsatisfactory performance, or the employee did something that goes against the code of conduct set out in your handbook.

This is why it’s so important to be prepared before you start hiring staff. The staff handbook should set out examples of performance and behaviour that might lead to a disciplinary process and what action will be taken.

Policies have to be written down so there is no room for ambiguity. But you must give people a chance to rectify the situation if performance is an issue. According to the website, your disciplinary procedure should include the following steps:

A letter setting out the issue.

A meeting to discuss the issue.

A disciplinary decision.

A chance to appeal this decision.


Doing the deed

If you do have to exit someone from your business, remember to do it gracefully and with respect. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – how would you like to be treated? It can cause strong emotions if you have to terminate an employment contract.

To defuse any tension and avoid any misunderstandings, have a witness present. If you don’t have an HR manager, then take a trusted employee in with you. Remain calm and professional before, during and after the process of letting go of an employee.

Once the decision has been taken, you will need to brief the rest of your team as to what has happened. Make sure that you give the facts and explain what impact there will be, such as how that role will be filled and whether any workloads will need to change. It might even lead to an opportunity for another team member.


Taking on new staff represents a major step in your business growth journey. You’ll face the same challenges irrespective of whether it is your first employee or your fiftieth.

Building a team, and by that we mean, building the right team will be one of the smartest things you do. Remember the primary purpose of the business owner is to concentrate on how you can grow the business, and you can’t do that if you are the one working all the hours in the day.

There are many reasons why a small business might want to take on staff. Is the business expanding so fast that you simply can’t do everything yourself? Are you struggling to keep up with customer orders?


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