by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kate Tarasenko
I once heard an InterNACHI member say, "At this point, I feel that I really can't afford to hire help." My response was the following:
Notice your use of the word "feel"? Anyway, your employees shouldn't cost you anything. None of my companies has a single employee that costs the company a penny. Every one of my employees generates black ink.
Maybe what you meant to say is, "I don't have the capital to cover their first few paychecks until they begin to bring in more money than they cost to employ." So, it's a lack of temporary cash flow.... or is it?
Or, maybe what you really meant to say is, "I have the capital to cover their first few paychecks until they bring in more money than they cost to employ, but I won't hire them. I won't hire them because, unless an employee can actually hand me a certain amount of cash at the end of the day that is greater than what I paid him/her that day, my brain won't let me attribute the additional profits indirectly generated by that employee's efforts to that particular employee, so I only focus on what I'm paying the employee, and not what the employee is paying me, indirectly, by making my company more profitable." So, it's a lack of basic business acumen... or is it?
Or, maybe what you really, really meant to say is, "I have the capital to cover their first few paychecks until they bring in more money than they cost to employ. And I realize that, although an employee might not actually hand me a certain amount of cash at the end of the day that is greater than what I paid him/her that day, I do attribute the additional profits indirectly generated by that employee's efforts to that particular employee. So, I don't focus on what I'm paying the employee but, rather, on what the employee is paying me, indirectly, by making my company more profitable. However, I don't think I will be able to accurately quantify the profits generated indirectly by the employee, and that keeps me from hiring." So, it's a lack of financial analysis skills... or is it?
Or, maybe what you really, really, really meant to say is, "I earn enough to pay my bills. My wife has a steady job. Between the two of us, we live comfortably and can even afford a few luxuries. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid of being poor, so I work hard and take few risks. I'm afraid of being rich, so I don't hire because hiring is a risk. If I were going to hire someone, I would be afraid to hire someone much different than me, or someone much more confident than me, or someone much smarter than me." So, it's a problem dealing with your own fears.
Unless you were born with some freak talent (such as being able to hit a baseball into the stands), it is very difficult to get rich without good help.
You can overcome your fears by doing some preparation. Ask yourself what you'd look for in a good boss, and be that boss. You can start by understanding what every employee needs in order to succeed at their job.
Regardless of the type of job, every employee needs the following:
- a job description. That would seem to go without saying, but if you aren't explicit about what your employee should be doing each and every day to assist you and help your business, don't be surprised if they stray and invent their own daily to-do list, which may have little to do with why you hired them in the first place. A job description should not only state what should be done, but also how.
- clear expectations. You need to be sure to state what you expect from your employee, both in terms of what they should be doing, and what they should not be doing. This goes for job tasks and deadlines, as well as on-the-job conduct, including schedule, attire, how to deal with unhappy clients--whatever is important to you.
- supervision and feedback. You might think that you need to simply have an introductory meeting, explain the job, discuss the details about how it should be performed, and you may even go over your expectations, including any deal-breakers. But all employees, regardless of how competent and self-sufficient they are, need feedback. And the less experienced they are, the more oversight they'll require, at least initially. Remember, you can't improve what can't be measured. So, set some reasonable goals for your employee, and review them together regularly. This will help you keep them on the right track, and it will give your employee the confidence they need to continue to perform well, or the opportunity to course-correct early, if necessary.
- the right tools. Whether it's a fairly new computer, a decent chair, or a key to the file cabinet to retrieve a new ink cartridge for the printer, don't hobble your employee by not providing the basic tools they need to perform their job. And when the suggestions or requests begin to sound like annoying complaints (or, worse, warnings to spend more of your money), consider yourself on notice--your employee may be unhappy because you may be inadvertently sabotaging their ability to do their job for you. If the request is reasonable--and even if it's not--don't ignore it or be dismissive. It's bad for morale, which is bad for business. Either pony up, or explain why you can't do it, or why you can't do it now, and provide reasonable alternatives or substitutes.
- proper compensation. Make sure you pay the prevailing wage for your area. And if you expect loyalty, you've got to give a little to get a little. It usually means regular merit raises based on performance. It may also mean benefits, such as health insurance and paid holidays off. It may mean commissions. It may be all of these or a combination of some of them. Just like you expect to be paid fairly for quality work, remember that your employees expect the same thing.
- recognition. When your business succeeds, it does so because of everyone's effort. Valuing your employees means making them stakeholders. So, keep them informed about how the business is doing (as far as is appropriate), especially if it's doing well. Give credit where credit is due. Celebrate your goals and achievements together. And if your rewards occasionally include perks and incentives, make sure they're meaningful. Your best employees will never forget how well you treat them.
A successful business doesn't mean that it has to expand until it's unrecognizable. But if you do expand, you'll soon discover that you can't do everything by yourself and still provide the same level of quality that your brand represents. A good leader delegates. A good leader trusts. A good leader actually leads. Becoming a boss is a leap of faith. But if you've ever worked for anyone else, you know instinctively what makes a good boss and what makes a lousy one, so apply those lessons when you prepare to hire your first employee. Fear is just a false obstacle, so put it aside, and figure out how you can be a boss that inspires excellence.