Employee Number One: How to Take the Plunge & Hire Your First Member of Staff

22 December 2021 |


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a founder in possession of a good fortune and a growing business, must be in want of fantastic employees.


However, many entrepreneurs find that first member of staff the hardest to hire. So far, you’ve done everything on your own and your clients have come to respect the high quality of work you deliver. And this has paid off; you are being offered more and more business, but as a one man band, you are unable to deliver.


The next logical step is to hire your first employee, but this can feel like a risk. What if they mess something up and your high quality of work is compromised? What if they let you down last minute, and the work for an important client doesn’t get done? What if they take a long time to learn, and it is more work that it is help training them up?


These are all possible eventualities and can paralyse any entrepreneur, so we decided to put this guide together in the hope that it will help you find the courage to hire your first employee! It is a huge step, and we have enormous respect for any founder that manages it.


For a practical guide on all the things you need to consider, this article is a fantastic place to start. That being said, we will be offering a more holistic approach, on how to get over that initial fear and the steps you need to take to ensure your new employee has the confidence to deliver the high standard of work you pride yourself on.


Step 1: Get the right help


Decide exactly what you want from your first employee. What level do you see them working at? Do you want someone with a complimentary skillset, to work as a co-founder? Or perhaps just someone to manage your day to day admin, so you can focus on customer acquisition and growth. Spend a day considering your performance thus far, and things that could have gone better. Is this because you lacked the know-how or simply the time? This will help you to identify what kind of person you need to hire.


Step 2: Working together


Consider your work environment and how you and your employee will be working together. Do you need someone who can work remotely, as you currently work from home? Or will you be working together in an office space, and are therefore limited to someone who is able to commute. If you will be working remotely, ensure you have multiple telephone interviews and video calls with the applicant before hiring, possibly even trialling a full day of working together to make sure you can communicate successfully in this way.


Step 3: Company culture


Consider your company values, and the attributes you would like your first employee to embody. For an idea on how to collate these, see our recent article here. It is vital to hire someone who understands your ethos and who will work seamlessly alongside you, so make sure you bear this in mind when recruiting.


Step 4: Test the waters


Set a task for your potential employee for them to carry out in their interview, or to prepare in advance. This will give you an idea as to whether they will produce the kind of work you need, and where there are any gaps in their knowledge.


Step 5: Onboarding


Once you have hired your first employee, congratulations! However, the work is not over yet. Before they start be sure to create a list of all the key areas you will need to train them up on in their first few weeks. On their first day, go through the list with them to understand what areas they feel confident with, and where they may need additional support.


Step 6: Share your passion


In advance of their first day, talk them through your company in more detail. They will be familiar with your brand, but they will need to know it and care for it like you do if this partnership is to work. Your passion will shine through, and hopefully be absorbed by them. Little touches like branded business cards will help them feel like part of the family.


Step 7: How-to-guides


If there are any processes that are basic once you know how to use them, but fiddly to begin with, create how-to guides so they have resources to fall back on when you are not around to ask.


Step 8: Outline Expectations


If you will be training them with client-facing responsibilities, be sure to outline expectations and go along with them for their first few meetings. This will allow you to support them where needed, and identify areas you need to train them on more.


Step 9: Be Supportive


This may be an obvious one, but ensure they feel supported, able to ask questions and most importantly to make mistakes!


Step 10: Check-in


Finally, schedule regular check ins. A weekly one-to-one meeting to discuss workload, priorities and a platform for any non-urgent questions is essential to allow your first employee to settle in well, build a relationship with you and get acquainted with their workload and how to manage it.


It is important to note that all of the above mostly apply to entrepreneurs who are hiring more junior members of staff, if you are looking for a partner the process will be slightly different. Nevertheless, if you simply amend the above steps to match the seniority level the same formula will apply.


The most important thing of all is to work very closely with employee number one in their first few weeks. It will be tough on your workload, but will pay off hugely once they are settled in! Ensure they feel comfortable asking questions and try and transfer your passion onto them as much as you can. Because when you love a company, understand its values and feel supported by your employer you will produce your best work. And that is the kind of employee number one that we all want!


Good luck!

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