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Tips for Hiring Your First Employee

Branching Out on Your Own

hiring tips for small business ownersOver at my new site that is working to be your one-stop shop offering help for the self-employed, called, not surprisingly, The Self-Employed, a common issue that arises has to do with getting the help you need when you’re just starting a business.

Because, while leaving the corporate grind behind sure is nice, one thing that many new entrepreneurs often are not prepared for is the lack of administrative assistance once you are on your own.

No more shipping department. No more supply room. No more gofers around to do the grunt work. No, once you are on your own, you wear many hats: CEO, VP of Marketing, Shipping Clerk, and yes, Receptionist.

For some self-employed people, that is just fine. They are happy simply replacing their old job with a new one – but one that they created, and one with a much better boss. But for many other entrepreneurs, the solopreneur stage is just that – a stage. They start their new business with a plan in place to grow, hire, and scale.

But even for them, a journey of a thousand miles begins, as it were, with a single employee. Here’s how to hire that person effectively:

1. Plan: Probably the hardest part for entrepreneurs is giving up control. Often it is not that they don’t want to share the power, but rather, they just don’t know how. They’re so used to doing it all themselves that figuring out what to let go of is a challenge.

The secret is to sit down, make a list of those things you do that must be done by you (client acquisition, for instance), and things that can and should be done by someone else (routine emails for example). Then make a list of what the new person will do.

After this is complete, figure out how much you can pay the person, what their hours will be, where and how they will work, and what all of their other duties will be.

2. Cast your net: Let your network know you are looking to hire, post the job description on Craigslist, Monster, at local colleges, and other job boards. This will ensure that you get a wide variety of applicants.

3. Sort: Of course you want someone with experience and smarts, but think outside the box a bit too. What else is important to you? Is it skills, personality, connections, or what? Pick people to interview who seem great, but also, who may intrigue you “just because.”

4. Interview: Look for people who have the skills, smarts, background, and experience, and with whom you connect. Would like to spend 8 hours a day with this person?

5. Make it legal: Have your attorney draft an employment contract. Be sure your contract states that the employee is “at-will” – meaning they can be fired at any time for any legal reason – so that there is no implied long-term promise of employment.



Steven D. Strauss is the country's leading small business expert. An internationally recognized lawyer, columnist, and speaker, Steve is also an author of 15 books. Steve's highly syndicated business column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly at He is also the small business columnist for Microsoft, and AT&T who calls him "America's Small Business Expert."