The Imperfect Science : Making Your First Hire

When starting your franchise, perhaps the most important decision you will make is who to hire first.

Any entrepreneur will tell you, a great team of people is the key to a successful business. This is your first big step in making your franchise a great business for yourself.

Hiring, though, can be difficult. You have to ask yourself a lot of questions. Do I want this person to stay for a while? Do I want someone with a very specific expertise or do I want a generalist? Is what I need today going to be the same as what I need tomorrow? Can this new person adapt to changes in my business?

It’s not a perfect science, and hiring mistakes happen all the time, but there’s some key tips that can help you find someone who will really help you grow.

Hire for Fit, Not Just for Skill

Skills may be one of the first things you look at in a candidate, but they shouldn’t be the last. Obviously your first hire should have basic abilities and qualities necessary to work for your business, however too often employers get caught up in skills and overlook fit.

What is the atmosphere of your business going to be like? Are they going to fit in? If your franchise is small and they have a background of working for big companies, is that going to create problems in terms of what they expect?

Every business is different. Some are more buttoned down than others. Some are more relaxed. During the interviewing process, you need to get a feel for the type of person the candidate is, and ask them what kind of environment they thrive in.

If a given candidate doesn’t have quite the level of skill as someone else, but they seem like a great fit, they’re probably the better choice. They can learn the skills as they go along.

Do Your Homework

You’d be surprised how many employers fail to do background checks and call references. It’s really a must. You’re investing a lot in an employee – both time and money. If this person is interacting with clients or customers, he or she could impact your business’s reputation as well.

A pre-employment screening service can handle everything from drug screening to behavioral assessments to skills testing.

If you don’t want to pay for a service, at the very least call references. Failing to do so could mean missing a key piece of information that could either affirm your decision to hire or raise a red flag.

Seek Out Utility Players

However you plan to run your franchise in the beginning, it is likely things will change as you grow. Keep this in mind as part of your hiring criteria. It’s probably going to benefit to hire utility players, people who can do a little bit of everything.

Their role will likely change and expand. You don’t want to hire someone whose expertise is so narrow they aren’t able to switch gears in six months to a year.

Play the Odds

When you’re hiring just one person, it’s important for you to play the odds. For example, you may have a great candidate who you think could one day be a dynamite salesperson, but they don’t have a lot of experience. It’s a risky bet. It might pay off big, but it might not. You’re better off playing a safer bet and hiring someone with sales experience.

Or, for instance, you’ve got a candidate with an especially long commute. Chances are they may burn out quicker than someone with a short commute.

If you were hiring 60 people, you could afford to take some fliers. But with one, you should bet on the person most likely to succeed at the position.

Hire Slow, Fire Quickly

The last thing to consider is if you hire someone who is clearly not working out, you may want to cut your losses sooner than later. As I mentioned earlier, you could risk doing reputational damage to your new business.

Take your time in finding the right person and give yourself the best chance to have a productive employee who will stay with you for a long time.

President and CEO, Michael Alter is responsible for the overall business model development, strategic planning and day-to-day operations for SurePayroll, a wholly owned subsidiary of Paychex®. Alter is a nationally recognized spokesman on small business issues. Alter is also a columnist for INC. com and appears regularly in media outlets nationwide, including Bloomberg TV, the Wall Street Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business and Entrepreneur magazine.


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