How to Expand your Team as you Grow the Business
By: Catherine Conlan
The numbers are there, and they can’t be denied: It looks like it’s time for you to hire more employees. It turns out that small business growth is in the cards for many companies. While business growth is exciting, it also comes with risks, especially when it comes to increased headcount.
Small businesses may not have a dedicated HR department or a dedicated HR person. That means already busy people will have to pitch in to help, says Diana Goodwin, founder and CEO of Toronto-based AquaMobile, a fast-growing on-demand at-home swim school business.
“This can mean having to work longer hours to fit everything into their busy day, or pausing on certain projects until the hiring is completed.”
Here’s how to keep your business on track as you add staff.
Take Stock of your Process and your People
Before you make any major changes, carefully audit your existing staff and processes. Is everyone in their optimal role? Are they doing things in the most efficient way? Adding more workers when your hiring processes aren’t nailed down can sometimes do more harm than good.
That was what business owner Deborah Sweeney found when she bought MyCorporation, a Calabasas, California-based business consulting firm. The company went through a pre-recession hiring boom that was ultimately ill-timed; once she took the reins, she had to let some people go.
“To avoid the same mistake, I made sure to look for the root of the problem, and found our sales process was too bloated to involve that many people,” she says. No one knew who was working on which customer and orders got lost.”
Before you go through a hiring boom, Sweeney recommends taking a good, hard look at how things are done throughout your business and doing so early on. Make sure you understand how your workflow will be enhanced by adding more people. Once you get past one or two people per department, consider formalizing your hiring process, since more people almost always leads to more confusion.
Determine Your Biggest Need
Next, take time to figure out what type of new role will make the biggest impact on your business. Do you need more sales people, or does your existing team simply need an assistant to take on administrative tasks? Can your one-person marketing department handle messaging that sudden growth will require? Do these positions need to be full or part time?
Depending on your business, there may not be a simple answer to this question, especially if business fluctuates throughout the year. “We approach hiring very methodically, taking into account seasonal growth trends,” says Shreyans Parekh, vice president of Fullerton, California-based Koyal Wholesale, which provides supplies for weddings and special events. If that’s the case, consider creating a seasonal hiring strategy.
Build a Recruiting Process That Scales
When you let people know you’re hiring, make sure your company values and mission come through in the job description. “Don’t waste your time on applicants who show no specific interest in joining your company,” Goodwin says. You want people who are eager to embrace your mission and help the company grow, rather than someone who’s just looking for a job.
In addition, Goodwin recommends automating as much of the recruiting process as possible to save time. These include automated candidate messaging and social media outreach. Also consider using calendar apps that make it easy to schedule appointments. Finally, put in place a consistent interview process that can easily be replicated.
Be Thorough in your Onboarding
Orientation and onboarding are critical to the success of a new hire, says Allison Megalis, president of MCL Contracting Services, an HR consulting firm in the Chicago area. An established orientation and onboarding process to set them up for success. This will also boost employee retention and increase employee productivity.
Set strong expectations with your new hire on their first day, says Michael Krasman, CEO and cofounder of Chicago-based UrbanBound, a relocation management software platform. Work with your new employee to lay out exactly what success looks like within the first 90 days. This gives them a benchmark for how well they are performing, says Krasman.
“These 90-day action plans can also give you a better idea of your employee’s skill set and provide direction on what areas to focus on in the future."
Your current employees are experts on what it takes to succeed at your company. Matching new hires with employees in an informal buddy system can help them feel at home and get them up to speed on company culture and processes, while a more formal mentoring program will keep them accountable on their 90-day goals.
No matter the type of program you use, increased collaboration and communication will help build a stronger team as you manage your growth.