Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

When you’ve built your business from the ground up, the thought of hiring someone can be overwhelming. This post can help. It includes tips on searching for employees, interviewing them, and what tasks to assign once they’re hired. That way you can focus on the exciting part – growing your business.

First steps
Small business owners are used to doing everything from formulating recipes to shipping orders. However, if day-to-day tasks are taking up most of your time and you can’t focus on big-picture items, it may be time to expand.

Jessica with Normal Soap Company had that realization while spending hours labeling and delivering products. She’s a 4th-generation soapmaker who started selling products about 6 years ago. She first hired part-time seasonal help, then year-round employees.

“There are times where I need to focus on production and building the business,” she said. “I can teach someone to label and make deliveries.”

normal soap company

Jessica with Normal Soap Company

Lela with Lucky Break Consulting said expanding will likely happen earlier than you want it to. The hiring process can be long and complicated, so you don’t want to start when you’re backed up against a wall. If you’re thinking about it, start looking into your finances to see if it’s something you can afford. Lela recommends deciding if you need a contractor for certain tasks or a long-term employee. Your state’s employment and labor laws will have more information on both options, so make sure to research those online. Then you need to create a document with all of your current tasks, how to complete them, what you expect from employees, the training process, etc.

“All of us are wearing so many different hats, which means the business lives in our head,” Lela said. “Get those systems and standards on paper.”

Next you can start looking for candidates. Lela recommends avoiding newspaper ads because they can be expensive. Online platforms like craigslist are free, but you will have to sift through a lot of spam. You can put the job posting in your blog or newsletter so people already familiar with your company apply.

“If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, put a sign in the window,” Lela said. “Don’t underestimate the power of that.”

Jessica said her best resource is other entrepreneurs in the area. She let market managers know she was hiring and also posted in a Facebook group for local businesses. Normal Soap Company’s products are sold in a few stores, so Jessica told the owners to send qualified applicants her way. That gave her plenty of resumes to choose from.

normal soap display

Normal Soap Company’s beautiful soap display

The interview process
Once you’ve narrowed the search, you can start interviewing applicants. Lela likes to start with a one-on-one meeting. It only lasts about 20 minutes and she asks a few simple questions. If she likes the candidate, she brings them back in for a second interview with more in-depth questions. It’s good to have someone else there for a second opinion. That can be an assistant, business partner, or even a trusted friend. Lela then takes the candidate on a tour of the facility and watches how they interact with other staff members.

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Lela (middle) and her team

Bramble Berry CEO and Founder Anne-Marie recommends covering experience and relevant skills, but also asking questions to see if the applicant is a good fit for the company culture.

“I like to ask about the last book they read, or the last movie they watched, how they practice stress release, if they consider themselves an introvert or an extrovert and an example of that personality behavior,” she said. 

When you find someone you like, make sure to check both personal and professional references. If you’re having trouble choosing between 2 applicants, trust your intuition.

“I’ve done a lot wrong over the years and 2 things spring to mind – not listening to my gut (that’s how we hired a bank robber, literally!), and hiring the world’s coolest people ‘just because’ but then not having a real role for them at the company,” Anne-Marie said.

What tasks to delegate
Start by making a list of all the tasks you’re currently doing.

“It’s a humbling experience seeing all the things you’re trying to master at once,” Lela said.

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Rate the tasks on how comfortable you feel doing them and how much you enjoy them. Then, go through and see which ones you can start delegating. Good options are day-to-day tasks like answering social media comments and cleaning dishes. That way you can work on high-level tasks like product development and human resources.

“Outsource everything that doesn’t need your touch,” Lela said. “Each hire should take another load off your plate.”

Jessica first has employees help with preparing orders, labeling, and making deliveries. Then she trains them on how to make products like lip balm and bath bombs. They also go to markets to sell products. Jessica continues to make soap and lotion, as they require more experience and knowledge of Good Manufacturing Practices. She does show her employees how to make it though.

“We try to balance necessary tasks like labeling with fun stuff like making soap,” she said.

Normal soap company

Normal Soap Company’s Rose Torte Soaps

After the hire
Hiring and training people is just the beginning. Lela recommends bringing people in for a 60-day trial. Once a week, meet with them for 5-10 minutes to see how everything is going. They can ask questions and you can see how they’re progressing.

“Keep an eye on them until they build confidence and spread their wings,” she said.

After that, she recommends yearly reviews. Find out what they love and what’s dragging them down. Create benchmarks and goals for them to meet by the next review. This is helpful for both employees and owners. Lela said a common mistake for owners is coming across too friendly because they’re not used to hiring and delegating tasks. Having systems and standards in place can help you be more professional and your employees know what to expect.

The more you work with someone, the more you’ll learn. In the beginning, Jessica relied on help from friends and family. They helped her business grow and it was the right decision at the time. But since she hired help, she hasn’t looked back.

“Don’t be afraid to take that leap,” she said.

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