Friday February 19, 2016
By far one of the most exciting milestones in growing a small business is the moment when it’s time to hire your first employee.
But if you think hiring another employee will instantly make your life easier as a business owner, you may be surprised! An employee should save you tons of time in the long run, but management has a steep learning curve.
I believe management is a skill that anyone can learn, especially if you have the right tools by your side to keep things organized and efficient. If you’re considering making a hire soon, start laying the groundwork now so your new employee can start saving you time and sanity sooner rather than later!
Strangely enough, one of the most common struggles for new managers is finding tasks they can bear to let go of.
But an employee is a great opportunity to relinquish some of those nitty-gritty details so you can stay more focused on the big picture. Or maybe you’re hiring someone to take on some of those big picture growth tasks, so you can get back to the fine details that make running a business worthwhile to you.
Either way, the goal is for your first employee to be someone who synergizes with you, so you can both work primarily on the tasks that give you the most energy. Be cautious about just delegating everything “easy” or everything you don’t currently have time for. Really plan out the division of responsibilities.
Give Written Instructions
Unfortunately for those of us who are natural verbal communicators, giving instructions to your employees verbally is a recipe for miscommunication. “You never told me to do that!” “How was I supposed to know to do that?” “But you told me to do it this way!” Those daily, small miscommunications eat away at your productivity and bottom line over time.
"Daily, small miscommunications eat away at your #productivity and bottom line over time." [Tweet this]
I quickly realized that giving written instructions provided so much more clarity. I developed a tasking system, which eventually developed into the one currently in AllProWebTools, in order to solve that problem in my very first business.
The tasking system allows me to write out my instructions, supervise employees’ progress on tasks, and make priorities crystal clear, all without the need for an in-person meeting.
Even if you’re confident you can manage one employee verbally, when you eventually expand your team, you’ll find verbal instructions are difficult to scale up.
As you are probably well aware, small business owners are tight on time. If your employees are actually going to save you any time at all, they’re going to have to be self-starters. You simply do not have time for “needy.”
I realized this early on, and I’ve devoted a lot of time to figuring out what creates needy employees. I believe it boils down to how you interact with them when they ask a question. If you drop what you’re doing and give them the answer, or worse, look up the answer, you’re enabling neediness.
Instead, use those opportunities to teach self-sufficiency. I’ve heard so many business owners say, “If I could just clone myself…” Well, here’s how you do it!
I teach how to efficiently find information. I welcome employees bringing solutions, not problems. And I encourage employees to “fail fast” if they aren’t sure whether a plan will work. But I rarely just give the answer. The result is, my employees are extremely independent, efficient, and empowered — exactly the kind of employees a small business needs to survive.
Manage Time in Increments
Managing another person’s time is one of the most difficult things to get used to with a new employee. How do you decide how long a task should take another person?
The only way you really can do it is to experiment, which is where tools can really come in handy. AllProWebTools allows you to set a time limit on tasks. I also encourage you to break tasks into small chunks and set shorter time limits for each task.
For example, when I hire a marketing writer, I approve time in increments. “Give me a draft in 30 minutes and let’s see where you are.” Getting that kind of granular insight is key, so you can scale up and make predictions for larger projects. Obviously you won’t be able to figure this out in a day, or even a month, but keep on experimenting, keep on documenting, and you’ll start to get a clearer picture of how your employees use their time.
I also encourage you to implement what I call the “Five Minute Rule.” An employee should never be stuck for more than five minutes. At that point, they either need to start researching or ask me to brainstorm with them.
Maintain Oversight Without Micromanaging
Most managers, even new ones, know that micromanagement needs to be avoided at all costs. It’s far too time-consuming for the business owner, causes bad blood with employees, and encourages that “needy” relationship that you so desperately need to avoid to be a successful manager.
But there’s a paradox in small business: need for detailed insight vs. need for hands-off management. Hour-by-hour, how your employees spend their time determines your bottom line. You need insight to successfully run your business. So how do you get that information without actually asking for it?
"Paradox in #smallbiz: need for detailed insight vs. need for hands-off #management." [Tweet this]
I have built AllProWebTools to be the ultimate solution to this paradox. Because your employees activities (timecard entries, task updates, client notes, and more) all post to a central live feed, called the Workflow Timeline, you can keep a finger on the pulse without your employees feeling like you’re lurking over their shoulder.
During the day, I’m usually too busy to check in regularly with most of my employees. But during my lunch, or after they all leave at the end of the day, I can scroll and skim through the Workflow Timeline and see what everyone has been up to. It’s the perfect balance of hands-off combined with granular insight.
As Your Team Grows, Encourage a Virtual Office
If you’re committed to continuing to grow your business, this first employee you hire won’t be your last. Soon you’ll have a whole team working together toward your dream. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your management techniques are scalable, meaning they work as well for a team of ten as for a team of one.
At AllProWebTools, we’re always working toward a more and more virtual office. That means fewer in-person meetings, fewer verbal instructions, and more independent collaboration taking place online. Learn more about what this means to us by clicking here.
The rewards are many. I can depend on my team to work when and where they’re most productive, whether that’s 9-5 in the office or late at night working from home. There’s a written digital record of all work, without the need for status meetings or micromanagement. And my team communicates freely online, without disturbing the quiet of the office.
I wouldn’t want to run a business any other way — nor could I afford to in terms of my time, money, or sanity. Check back soon to read Part II of my employee management tips!
What are your fears as you start looking to hire your first employee? Or do you have advice for other business owners based on your first hire? Share your experience in the comments!