Small businesses often start as one-man operations. While some businesses may require more than one employee from the start, such as a restaurant or delivery business, many others can be kicked off by one person and remain that way for several years.
However, making the leap from a solopreneurship to a multi-person business requires a certain level of commitment. Before you make that jump, here are seven signs that it might be time to add your first employee to your team.
You’re Turning Away Work
If you simply don’t have enough time to take on new work, a new employee can make a big difference. When a client contacts you to ask you to join in on a new project or refers you to a lucrative business associate, you’ll know it’s time to hire help by the way you feel as you say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take on additional projects at this time.”
But one of the biggest challenges of hiring someone full-time is the uncertainty. That lucrative new project may turn out to be not so lucrative, after all, and you’ll have already added someone to your payroll with no easy way out. Instead of committing to a full-time employee, consider bringing in a contractor for a specific project. If the relationship works out, you’ll then have the option of either extending that worker’s contract or offering him a salaried position.
You Have No Time to Grow
If you continue to operate as you have been, you may find you eventually stagnate. Sure, you’re able to handle day-to-day operations without letting your customers down, but adding new customers is out of the question. You don’t have time to stop to think about where your business is going next because you’re too busy trying to keep your existing business model operating.
Make a list of the things you do each day that could be handled by someone else. These may be tasks you don’t enjoy doing or tasks you simply find easier to offload to a worker with minimal training. If you can bring someone in to handle those tasks, even on a part-time basis, you’ll be able to free yourself up to pursue new opportunities and help your business grow.
Your Customers Are Complaining
Of all of the reasons to hire help, this may be the most compelling. When customers are unhappy with the service you’re providing, it’s time to reevaluate things. It would be impossible to never rub a customer the wrong way at least occasionally. However, if the reason customers are complaining is because you’re overextended and therefore unable to handle their requests reasonably, it’s likely time to admit you can’t do it all.
Unhappy customers are especially damaging in a social media era. Unhappy customers no longer simply ask for the manager. Today they head to sites like Yelp, where they share their bad experiences with the world. One slip-up could haunt a business forever, turning hundreds of potential customers away.
Your Clients Can’t Reach You
If you’re a client-based business, one telltale sign that it’s time to hire help is that you can’t return calls or emails in a timely manner. If your clients don’t feel that they can reach you when they have a question, you’ll be marked as inaccessible and they’ll soon find someone else to help them. They’ll also likely tell others about their experience with your company, keeping you from landing new accounts.
You don’t have to hire a second manager to handle those requests. Instead, you could bring someone in as a first line of defense, allowing that employee to answer simple questions and schedule meetings. Or you could choose to offload some of your day-to-day activities to your new hire, which will free you up to speak to your clients when they have questions.
Your Finances Can Handle It
Before you can even think of hiring someone, you’ll need to make sure your finances can handle it. If you’re fortunate enough to have extra money at the end of each month, an employee is one of the best investments you can have. By putting those thousands of extra dollars into paying a full-time staffer’s salary, you’ll be able to refocus your efforts onto building your business, making that extra amount grow by leaps and bounds.
If you don’t have extra money at the end of each month, you may still find that an extra employee would free you up to build your bottom line. If that additional worker’s salary would pay for itself fairly quickly after hiring, it still might be a great investment.
You Need a Specialist
Often the reason to hire an additional employee is simply that you lack the bandwidth to handle certain tasks. Your business model may require an employee that has a level of technical expertise you lack. Or perhaps you’re a talented app developer with a firm of your own and you need help with the visual elements of the apps you develop.
When you need the expertise of a specialist, you have a variety of options for bringing someone on. If you only need someone for isolated projects, you can outsource the work to a freelancer. You can also go part-time or hire an intern from a local college to do the work. But if it’s regular work that is necessary to the day-to-day operations of your business, you’ll need to save up for a specialist fairly early on in the building of your new enterprise.
You Can Never Get Out of Town
If you can’t leave town because work demands you be there day after day, extra help could give you that backup you need. Everyone needs a vacation from time to time, but it can be difficult to go away for several days without sacrificing your business. A vacation is necessary every now and then to refresh your mind and avoid burnout, but if you’ll spend the entire trip on the phone with clients, you may as well stay home.
Vacations aren’t the only reason you need someone to fill in for you while you’re away. Networking conferences and client meetings will occasionally take you out of town, as well. Although technology allows professionals to stay in touch while traveling, you’ll likely be out of touch for pockets of time while you’re away. By having someone on the payroll for at least part-time hours each week, you’ll be able to get that person up to speed on your business to be able to leave town without worrying.
If you’re thinking about hiring your first employee, there are several considerations to make first. Affordability is a top concern, but satisfying your customers and taking the stress off of yourself are top reasons, as well. You can start by contracting or hiring a part-timer if you’re more comfortable that way, then work into a full-time salaried team member.