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How to Tell When your Small Business is Ready to Make a Hire

Timing is everything in business—including knowing when to bring on a new hire. Hint—it’s often sooner than you think.

How to Tell When your Small Business is Ready to Make a Hire

By: Catherine Conlan

Think back to when you first launched your business. Did you ever imagine a time when you’d need to bring new people on board? Now that your company is growing, you may be wondering, is now the right time to hire

While timing is everything, positive growth can be a source of stress. After all, change can upset the balance you’ve created up until now. But if you want your company to get to the next level, it’s best to acknowledge any concerns you have about bringing on more people.   

“You have to be careful when hiring,” says Allison Bonin, co-owner of Advanced Graphic Engraving, a printing and engraving company based in Broussard, Louisiana. “If we hire somebody too soon and have to let them go, the cost to train them is on us, and that’s a burden. And they’ve missed out on other opportunities.” 

How can you be certain that it’s time to bring on a new hire at your small company? Fortunately, as our experts show, there are a variety of ways to verify your instincts and time it right–and keep your business humming.  

Map Your Company’s Growth
The biggest indicator that it’s time to hire is to forecast your company’s growth, says Jodie Shaw, chief marketing officer at The Alternative Board, a peer advisory board service that provides advice to growing businesses, headquartered in Westminster, Colorado. 

“Many business owners make the mistake of growing first and hiring second,” she says. “The truth is, it can take six to 12 months to get a new hire up to speed on your business and allow them to acclimate to your culture.”

Shaw recommends mapping out your company’s milestones. Be realistic about your growth targets that you expect your business to reach in the coming year. Once you’ve completed this task, plan to start your hiring process about eight months before that resource will be needed. When you’re ready to hire, a Monster Job Ad can help you quickly find the talent you need. 

“That way, the impact of this growth on business operations and the people within your organization will be seamless, and your business will be ready to handle the growth,” she says.

Take Note of Employee Workloads
Another sign that it’s time to hire is when you look up and notice that your employees are busy—really busy. Perhaps you were too busy yourself to notice. 

If so, your next step is to verify that the elevated levels of work you’re seeing are sustainable. If you confirm that the boom will last, then it’s time to hire.  

“Once we see an increase in job orders over an extended period of time and are using a lot of overtime, we keep a pulse on the whole team,” Bonin says. “If they’re happy taking overtime, we buckle down and get it done. But sometimes it’s too much.”

Here are some of the signs that you and your staff are overworked: 

  • A significant or even subtle drop in the quality of work
  • An increase in customer issues that need to be addressed in a timely way
  • You’re unable to grant employee requests for time off
  • Regular overtime has surpassed seasonal booms
  • Evidence of employee burnout—irritability, absenteeism and accidents

If you find that you’re experiencing two or more of the circumstances above, it may be due to growing pains. It may well be time to hire a full time employee.

While you determine if the increased demand you’re seeing represents a new growth stage for your business, consider bringing on temporary employees or contractors to help pick up the slack. 

Account for the Value of Your Time
As a business owner, you take pride in being a jack of all trades. Yet it’s all too easy to get bogged down in operational details which will distract you from focusing on business development and lead generation. 

If that’s a familiar scenario, then it’s a great time to hire, says Will Staney, founder and principal consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, a recruitment strategy consulting company in Austin, Texas.

“If you’re the CEO for a growing startup, you need to take things off your plate that are not generating revenue for your company,” says Staney. 

As a business leader, focus your time on things that will grow the business, not administrative or operational tasks, Staney says. “Think about what your time is worth as CEO—are the things you’re spending time on worth that much?” 

The solution? Consider hiring someone who can handle tasks at a lower pay grade, allowing you to work on crucial business development.

Listen Carefully to Clients
Your customers are a valuable source of revenue—as well your canary in the coalmine to help you determine when it’s time to hire a new employee. 

Here’s how it works. If customers—or potential customers—consistently ask about services they wish you provided, or request large orders that you just don’t have capacity for, it’s an indication of greater demand for what you offer. 

While this is a good problem to have for a startup, there comes a point when it’s time for your business to expand to fulfill present needs as well as projected ones, says Christina Boudreaux, owner and senior talent consultant at Talent Made Simple, an HR consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

As part of your startup checklist, regularly communicate with clients to ask whether they’re looking for wider service offerings and how you can meet those needs. Keep track of these requests to determine when it’s time to bring on a new hire.

Monitor How You Feel About Your Work
Your own stress levels can tell you whether it’s time to bring someone else on, says Mori Taheripour, principal at MT Global Strategies LLC, a business consulting group, and a faculty member at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches negotiation and conflict resolution. 

Taheripour suggests that you ask yourself a simple question—do you still enjoy being a business owner? If the stress you feel could be mitigated by someone else handling a portion of your workload, it’s time to find that person.

“If you’re no longer able to enjoy doing what you do because you’re so busy being stressed and catching up and worrying, then that’s a sign,” she says. 

Remember—growing pains are natural outcome for any company. How you handle that growth will, in large part, determine your company’s success. Take the time to assess your decision to hire. You should feel both confident and proud about hiring new team members. And remember to keep the process as simple as possible by using one of Monster's customizable job descriptions