3 Ways To Tell It's Time To Hire Someone

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In my life, I have been on both ends of the hiring process. And, to be honest, I hated both sides equally. I'm a Canadian and a bookkeeper. So, things like confrontation, self-promotion, and awkward interactions fall pretty low on the list of things that make me happy.

I was terrible at hiring people when I had to, so I will be the first to admit I have purposely avoided it ever since.

In the life of any small business there will come a time when you need to collaborate with, if not outright employ, other people. You might just need someone to clean the office once a week, contract someone once to build your website, or you might need a small team to run your manufacturing division. If you want your business to grow, you will need to make this decision at some point.

The one thing I have learned is this: the best time to hire someone is BEFORE you really need them. Hiring a tax professional the day before your taxes are due is too late. Employees take time to train. Subcontractors have other clients. It's important to see the warning signs early, so you have time to act before problems come up.

Here are 3 ways to tell it's time to hire someone.

1. You're Behind Schedule

This is the big one that, if ignored, can lead to your business being much less hectic...in a very bad way. I have had seasons when this was a big problem. The stress of running a business, combined with the stress of missed deadlines isn't good for your business or your health.

Sometimes this is seasonal. For example, Mar/April is crazy for me because of tax returns. In order to keep food on the table, I need to have plenty of regular bookkeeping clients every month. Then, in the Spring, I can't just ignore them for 2 months and focus on my yearly tax clients. Well...I can, but that tends to make for angry clients. You know...the ones who have been feeding my kids the other 10 months of the year. So, I know that 2 months out of the year, my schedule is going to border on unmanageable. Maybe your business is really business in the summer, or over the holidays.

In those cases, I see 2 choices.

  1. Bring on someone temporarily to help you through those seasons.
  2. Find a way to plan ahead, and spread out the work over a longer period of time.

If you're a bookkeeper, the second one is possible with some planning. If you are doing the books AND the tax returns for a client, there's no reason their returns need to get done in April. Plan to have their books ready for filing in February. You'll still have their regular books to do in March and April, but getting some of the tax work done in January and February helps a lot.

If it's clearly not seasonal, you need to make a decision. You either need to scale back the workload, or find someone to help. Everyone's busy, and most clients will understand that you have a lot to get done. Eventually though, they will get tired of delays and missed deadlines.

What you delegate to someone else brings us to my second point.

2. You constantly avoid (at least) one aspect of your business.

What's piling up on your desk...either physically or virtually? If you haven't filed your taxes since 2007, maybe you need to find a bookkeeper. If you have 200 messages in your inbox, and 40 more in voicemail...maybe you need to hire an assistant.

Very few people like EVERY aspect of running a business. You probably don't need to sit down and figure it out either. I bet you already know what scares/bored/confuses you about being a business owner. Unfortunately, you need to stay on top of all of the departments in order to become successful. Figure out what department you tend to avoid, and consider letting someone else handle it for you.

3. You want to grow beyond what 40/60/80 hours per week can do.

At the end of the day, you are only one person. This point saddens me, so I feel your pain. I wish I could work 40 hours a day, spend another 40 per day with my family, and get a restful 8 hours of sleep each night. But until I figure out cloning or time manipulation, I'm stuck with the same 24 hours and the same non-mutant body.

If your vision for your business includes significant expansion, there's going to be a point where you become the bottleneck to that vision. Maybe you want to open a second location or offer 24 hour support. Whatever it is, if growth is a goal then you will need to seek out help. If that is the case, it's much better to get help before you realize you're in over your head. Adding hiring and training to your plate when you're already swamped will be a lot to manage.

I really think one of the things that will make your business a success is identifying when you need help. We all want to do it all, and it's very rare that we can. Acknowledging the fact that you need help, and taking the time to find the right person/people/company to provide that help is a big step.

The most important thing is that you spend time doing what makes your business special. You all have unique skills that you offer your clients and customers. Finding someone to help you with the less important tasks frees you up to do what got you into this business in the first place. And that's how you create happy customers and a healthy business.

Being an entrepreneur isn't for everyone.

It sure seems like everyone is running their own business now, doesn't it? At least, if you spend a lot of time online it does. People are freelancing, running "side projects", or in the middle of launching a new startup.

If you aren't your own boss yet, there are plenty of business books telling you how much you should be. You should be trading in that 40 hour week for a 4 hour one, and sitting in a hammock on the beach while your new business makes millions in passive income.

Yet at the same time, do you know a lot of people who aren't constantly complaining about work? Or even worse...bragging about the 80 hour weeks they put into their startups? It seems like in one breath we're saying how much we'd never want to go back to a "regular job" while at the same time becoming nostalgic on how simple it was in our parent's day.

In all of our rush to become the next self-made millionaire, we rarely take the time to make sure we're willing to pay the price and take the risk to achieve this unlikely goal.

One of the things that the internet gives us is access to billions of stories we would have never heard in the past. This knowledge is a double-edged sword. Being able to see 10,000 examples of people who have made millions of dollars with just a good idea and a little luck can be incredibly inspiring. So inspiring that we forget about the millions of examples of people who barely make $10,000 with a different good idea and a little less luck.

Human beings seem to favour potential over promise, which more often than not gets us into trouble. It's a pretty safe bet that if we invest $1,000 and have a bit of patience, it's going to be worth more when we retire. However, since there's a microscopic chance that if we buy a $5 lottery ticket we could become instantly rich, we waste far more than $1,000 chasing that dream.

The same thing holds true for jobs. If I take a job with a well established company that pays $40,000 a year, I won't immediately become rich. Heck, I may never get a decent raise, and never see a 7-digit net worth. But, if the company stays around (I know that's not a guarantee like it used to be), or if I can transition smoothly into a similar job elsewhere if needed, money will keep showing up in my bank account every 2 weeks for the rest of my working life.

Instead, we blindly jump into these business ventures because there's the potential for much more. We're tired of working "for the man". We want to work the hours we choose, take time off when we want to, and give ourselves the chance to make it big.

Let's take a plumber as an example. They're really good, and so they get told they should open their own shop. They're great at what they do, so why wouldn't they? Their boss is sitting around "doing nothing", getting rich, while they work hard for a small paycheque. They don't realize that once they make the move, plumbing is now 1 of 10 different jobs they're expected to perform each day. Before they were the best at what they did. Are they the best bookkeeper? The best marketer?

I think people forget the end game of running a business. People who run plumbing businesses don't fix toilets. They run businesses. They hire plumbers, and they probably know a lot about plumbing...but plumbing is no longer their "job".

If you are really good at managing people, dealing with stress, managing money, and creatively solving problems, you should definitely open your own business. If, however, you are really good at a specific skillset, whether it's plumbing, marketing, or teaching, but not at those other skills, then you should find a place that pays you well to do what you do best.

Here's the part most people won't tell you. A lot of the employees who are really good at their job are making more money than their boss...and go home at lot less stressed out each day.

There are many sites out there, including my own most of the time, that will tell you how great it is being an entrepreneur (I still believe it is), but I thought it was important to let you know the other side of that coin.

Running your own business isn't the only choice, or the eventual decision we all must make. Sometimes "just" being an employee is the best decision you can make. Whatever you decide, just do what makes the most sense for you and your family, and do it to the best of your abilities.

Good luck!

Out of The Office? Embrace a Summer Vacation

work too hard.jpg

If you suffer from workaholic syndrome, you're not alone. According to the International Labor Organization, almost 20 percent of Americans work 48 hours a week or more — an amount the ILO considers excessive. More than one-third of Americans don't use all available vacation days, and nearly one-fifth have canceled planned vacations because of work obligations. As for employees who make it a point to vacation, nearly one-third stress about work while they're away, highlights Expedia.com's annual International Deprivation Survey™. And if you're an entrepreneur who's risked it all with your new business venture, a vacation and stepping away from work seems absurd. 

Cultural Expectations  

Our work culture promotes and nearly enforces overwork. For instance, the Huffington Post recently published an infographic developed by Katy Hall and Chris Spurlock that's chillingly titled, "Paid Vacation Mandated Almost Everywhere Except U.S." The facts are more grim than the headline. While all other industrialized companies legally require paid vacations and holidays, the U.S. doesn't even guarantee such benefits — much less require them by law. 

No PTO 

According to the "The Fair Labor Standards Act" and U.S. Department of Labor, the FLSA doesn't require that employees be paid for any time not worked, including meals times, breaks, vacations, sick days or holidays. Yes, changes have been made throughout the years, but the FLSA legislation is 75 years old and reflects a time when six-day workweeks and child labor existed. Paid days off were an incredibly generous employer offer during times when unemployment was rampant and safety nets were few. Laws remain arcane and unadjusted despite scientific research that supports time off. Big businesses oppose suggested and sought-after modifications to the FLSA.

Health Influences Work

In addition to an overworking culture and being denied paid time off, the average American's health care costs have risen to almost $8,000 per year. This number affects companies that offer medical insurance as a benefit, explains BusinessKnowledgeSource.com. Obesity, heart disease, the aging Boomer generation, pharmaceutical industry and growing technology in medicine affect rising healthcare costs. Businesses have to draw attention to the health of employees in order to help rein in high insurance costs and keep productivity efficient. Increasing health care costs may just be what it takes to combat the philosophy of "work hard and harder" — without vacation and play. Contemplate the following while deciding whether or not to take time away from work:

  • An annual vacation can increase life expectancy by 20 percent in middle-age men, according to research by the State University of New York at Oswego.
     
  • More than one-third of professional workers return to work from vacations and demonstrate increased productivity.
     
  • Women who enjoy a minimum of two vacations per year experience lower rates of depression, fatigue and unhappiness with their marriages, explains a study by the Wisconsin medical journal.

Whether you can't seem to detach yourself from work or you want to keep your employees chained to desks, reconsider. A vacation this summer can restore and refresh  mental health and rejuvenate the body. Enjoy a guilt-free vacation, whether you're a small business owner or medical laboratory assistant. Allow your employees to do the same. Mental and physical health and happiness will help your business thrive.

Alexis Brown is a medical student from Philadelphia and writes for several blogs.

 

4 Tips for Choosing a PR Consultant

For most companies and organizations, the PR (public relations) department boasts a huge and important presence. This is because public relations has a huge impact on how successful your business is. It takes a very specific skill set to excel at PR, and that's why you need to keep a discerning eye if you're hiring a professional in the area. When it comes to hiring a consultant, what tips do you need to keep in mind? Read on to find out!

A Degree
Now, this is often debated, because many people could claim to have a working knowledge of public relations. After all, many individuals know the basic strategies for reaching out to a target audience. However, most would agree that it's important to hire someone with a degree in public relations or similar field (journalism, communication studies, etc). You want the candidate to understand the diverse techniques needed for your company's success, in addition to a grasp of the entire disciplines - terminology, notable names, laws, etc..

Social Media
If your PR consultant is adamantly opposed to the use of social media in marketing, you're going to have a major problem. So many companies and businesses are using social media marketing today, and you need catch up to them if you want to have any chance of being competitive. From Facebook pages to Twitter accounts, these tools really help to get the word out about your business in ways never before envisioned.

The Approach
When you are interviewing potential candidates for the job, find out their best methods. For example, some public relations experts emphasize networking, while others will downplay the importance of these events in favor or online efforts. There is no universally correct approach, but there are likely best practices for your niche or market. It all depends upon who you are as a business and what your business-specific goals are. You need to make sure their methods match yours. Just because something worked for a vacuum company doesn't automatically mean that it will transfer over to a non-profit agency. If they're coming from a different sector, find out why they think their skills will transfer - unless you're looking to expand into a new market, of course.

No "Quick Fixes"
Upon hearing the word "consultant," you might think you are hiring someone with whom to work for a short amount of time. Instead of hiring a person to hold a permanent position on your team, you're envisioning someone who will diagnose the problem, offer some solutions and then move on to another company or business. Instead, you should really be looking for a consultant with whom to build a long-term relationship. Public relations fixes do not just happen overnight. No, they are supposed to be helping you to create long-term relationships with customers, media and more. This simply can't be accomplished with a "quick fix" - public relations isn't a single task - it's an investment, upkeep even. You never know when something terrible or controversial could befall your organization, and your PR professional may just be the most important person on your staff.

Author Pam Johnson is a PR professional who obtained her degree from one of the Top 20 Value Online MBA Programs.