How to resource your start-up and scale your business

How to resource your start-up and scale your business by The EMMS

Almost every entrepreneur I speak to has the same goal: growth.

But what happens when that goal starts to become a reality? Suddenly there is more work to do, more customers to please, more challenges to take on and oh yes, more paperwork to keep track of.

Perhaps the most obvious option is to hire an employee to help lighten the load. The first role many people hire for is a junior admin almost fresh out of uni… But before you do that, take a step back and consider whether that’s the only option, the best option, or even a viable option.

What does it mean to hire an intern or a junior employee?

It can be really tempting to think of interns or juniors as cheap labour. But repeat after me… there is no such thing as cheap labour!

Junior employees require training and guidance and a certain amount of hand-holding. Also, they will expect a semblance of company culture and that work isn’t just about work. All that takes hours of valuable time away from you and/or from more senior employees - essentially increasing overheads, reducing your flexibility and time to focus on growing your business.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t hire junior staff, but it does mean that you should hire them with the right expectations. If you really need someone to come on board quickly and to hit the ground running, a junior employee may not be the answer.

Hiring a senior

If the budget is there, it may be smart to bring on a senior employee to help you take your business to the next level.

There are two things that I always encourage entrepreneurs to look for in an important hire like this:

  • First, you want someone who deeply believes in your business, so much so that they’ll treat it like their own.

  • Second, it’s best to look for someone who’s skills compliment yours. How can they bring in new connections, fill skills gaps or provide industry expertise? What strengths can they lend that you don’t already have?

Knowing that top talent is in high demand, you may need to get creative with your incentive structure. To be competitive, you could offer equity in addition to a more moderate salary, or set up a bonus compensation scheme tied to performance. Alternatively, you may also look at part-time arrangements that would enable you to draw on the expertise of a more senior employee but at a cost that is more manageable.  

If the need is there and you’ve found an absolute perfect match, you might even consider hiring a co-founder, giving up a significant amount of ownership in order to achieve your goals. Of course this is risky, but if there is a good fit, this move could really help you amplify your business and could work out even more profitable.

Whatever level you hire, remember hiring someone is a serious decision. You’re essentially taking someone’s career and livelihood into your hands. Before you do, always ask yourself: “Do I really need to fill that role right now? Are there other ways I can bridge the gap?”

The case for keeping it lean

As an entrepreneur, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up comparing your business with other start-ups and to work through an imagined checklist of “things I should be doing as a founder”. Hiring can be one of them.

If your business doesn’t have sufficient funding or isn’t bringing in enough revenue to even pay for your own salary, you may want to reconsider whether bringing in someone else is worth the gamble.

It could just be a matter of waiting until you’re realistically able to make enough revenue to support yourself and someone else, but if it’s possible to grow your business without the expense of paying multiple salaries (and all the responsibilities that come with it), you might just be better off keeping things small, building a lean team or even a company of one.

Just because you don’t have additional employees doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. There are more ways to resource your start-up:

#1 Outsource or automate part of your workload

Whether you have employees or not, there are aspects of your business - and even your personal life - that someone else or a piece of technology may be better equipped to take care of.

First, think about what your time is worth by breaking it down into a hypothetical hourly rate. Then make a list of the things you a) don’t really want to do yourself, and b) could find someone else to do just as well for less than the cost of your time.

From taxes and accounting, to shipping and fulfillment, to cleaning and even grocery shopping, if hiring someone to help you out with some of these chores frees up your time to work on your goals, could you make more money? If you paid a tax accountant a few hundred dollars to do something that you would need to learn to do properly or that takes you a lot of time, could you ultimately save money even though you’ve outsourced it? If yes, go for it!

The same goes for technology. Should you really be saving x amount on that amazing accounting software that integrates across all your systems and compiles your financial statements for you and spend hours doing everything by hand on Excel? Sure, there are some redundant apps out there, but sometimes automating things is key to not only saving you time but also improving your processes and ultimately helping you grow your business.

#2 Hire an expert

Without a doubt, there will be skills essential to the growth of your business that you don’t already have. As an entrepreneur, you’ll learn everyday and take on more than you ever thought possible, but that doesn’t mean that you have to become an expert in everything.

Some business-critical jobs are actually better left to professionals outside of your company. For example, you may hire a lawyer to help you with contracts, a tax adviser to help you with the books or a graphic designer to help with your branding, a digital marketing specialist to help you with SEO and SEM, a PR agency to help you tell your story to the press etc. All of these could be short-term or even long-term arrangements that you call upon when needed, instead of hiring an employee.

Maybe one day you’ll bring these roles in-house - or maybe not. Whatever you do, make sure you get the right skills involved in your business at the right time and maximize your time on what you do best: growing your business.

Marielle Reussink - Founder of The EMMS

Marielle Reussink

Founder of The EMMS, Marketing Professional, Entrepreneur, Investor with L.I.C. & Advisor to Start-ups

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