SCORE: Things to consider before hiring
Q. My partner and I have been running our laser engraving business ourselves for the past two years. We've reached the point now where we're both completely maxed out, so we're considering hiring at least one employee. Where do we start?
A. Over the past 15 years, nearly two-thirds of new jobs have been generated by small businesses. Yours may be one of them. That's good news for your local economy, for your customers whose expectations for quality service are higher than ever, and for you, as you can focus your energies on other priorities.
If you're considering adding to this trend by expanding your work force, you want to be sure the people you hire are both qualified and committed to doing a good job. That said, it's easy to go into the hiring process with the best of intentions, and end up with results that fail to meet anyone's expectations.
So before you display the "Help Wanted" sign, literally and figuratively, give some thought to both your hiring goals and strategy for achieving them.
Do you really need additional help? It's great that your business is on a growth track, but is adding staff cost-effective? Reformulating processes or rearranging current employee responsibilities may be all that's necessary, at least for the short term, as long as it doesn't overburden your current workers.
Assess alternatives. If your needs don't match up with a new full-time position, creating one or more part-time positions may meet your needs and provide added flexibilities. Temp agencies can also help with short-term needs, with the added advantage of doing the screening work for you. Independent contractors and outsourcing may also be the answer.
Define the job and what it takes to do it. Carefully consider the job's direct and associated responsibilities, and incorporate them into a written job description. Be careful with general titles such as administrative assistant or sales clerk, as they have different meanings to different people. Be reasonable about your expectations. Too stringent, and you limit your available talent pool; too low and you may be deluged with unqualified applicants.
Compensation counts. Even when jobs are scarce, people still expect a fair wage for a fair day's work. State and local chambers of commerce, employment bureaus and professional associations can help you determine appropriate wages and benefits. Also study comparable jobs in your industry to determine prevailing wage rates.
Attract attention. Promoting a job opening is no different from promoting your business; you must go to where the potential candidates are. Options include advertising in your local newspaper (both print and online editions), websites such as Craigslist or Monster.com, or with signs in your store, around the neighborhood or at nearby high schools and colleges. For jobs requiring specialized skills, consider utilizing trade magazines, industry-specific job banks and employment agencies. Also talk up the job opening among friends, neighbors, suppliers, customers and current employees.
This column is brought to you by the Merrimack Valley Chapter of SCORE, with nearly 70 current and former business executives available to provide free, confidential, one-on-one business mentoring and training workshops for area businesses. Call 666-7561 or visit merrimackvalley.score.org for information on mentoring, upcoming workshops and volunteer opportunities. SCORE is a national, non-profit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.