Posted: Wed 30th Jun 2021
Growth is essential for your business's longevity. If you stand still for too long, you run the risk of being overtaken or losing relevance among your audience.
Growth happens in lots of ways – diversifying your offering, increasing your sales or expanding your customer pool, for instance. Whatever metric you’re focusing on, one thing is for sure: growth takes manpower.
So, it’s likely that you’ll need more hands on deck to implement your strategy and push your small business forward. Whether you’re looking for strategic help from third parties, short-term contractors or long-term team members, it’s crucial to make the right decision about who to bring on board at such a pivotal time for your business.
This guide provides ideas for how you can find the people that can supercharge your growth.
Get support from a business coach
If you can free up the budget, a good growth consultant or business coach should pay for themselves.
They can analyse your business to identify opportunities, demystify the growth process, put together a strategy and support you to reach your goal. After all, achieving growth can involve everything from revamping your marketing to investing in new equipment and changing the way you manage money.
But how to find the right one to work with on your business? There are a few things to take into account.
Experience in your industry
It’s great to get some fresh perspective from someone who’s used to working across different sectors. Seeing your business from a different angle might really give them an edge.
But it does, of course, help for them to know your field too – the nuances, the market and tried-and-tested tactics.
These days, we don’t even make small decisions like where to eat dinner without doing research first. So, big investments like this definitely deserve the same treatment.
An experienced and successful business growth consultant or coach should have plenty of case studies and testimonials to promote, so have a look on their site to see what kind of clients they’ve worked with.
It might be helpful to speak to previous clients too or ask your network for recommendations.
You want to know exactly what you’re going to get back from your investment in your coach, right? It’s their job to prove their tactics work, so they should have plenty of stats on their results.
If you want support throughout your growth process, find a coach or consultant who is going to be hands-on and not just give you a strategy to implement yourself then be on their merry way.
Business coach Inge Dowden says:
“The right coach will make you feel excited and energised. They will help you believe in yourself and you will feel that they have something to offer you.
“The best way to find one is to go by recommendations from people you know and then have a free session (which most offer) with at least two or three different ones, so that you can experience their style for yourself.”
You can use Enterprise Nation’s adviser matching service to search for business coaches.
Fill short-term gaps in staffing
From where you’re standing – right at the edge of your growth plan, yet to jump – it might be difficult to financially commit to a permanent member of staff. Or, perhaps due to a change in process, you know that you won’t need more bodies in the longer term.
But while your scaling is in motion, it’s likely there will be slack to pick up, whether it’s increased admin or the need for you to free up your time. So, hiring someone in the interim might be an ideal solution.
There are three main routes when it comes to finding short-term staff. All options offer you a certain degree of flexibility, although they each have their pros and cons.
Hiring on a fixed-term contract
Taking on a new member of staff with an agreed end date of employment means that, for the time they’re with you, they can really bed in and get a deep understanding of the company and their role.
They’re more likely to become efficient and show commitment to the business – just like any permanent staff member – making the time you put into training them worthwhile.
Also, should you find yourself needing to fill that role on a permanent basis later on, you have the ideal candidate.
As a business, depending on how long your new member of staff stays, you’ll be responsible for covering sick pay, holiday and all the other employee benefits that your permanent team are entitled to.
Working with a temping agency
This is a good option if you’re too short of time to handle the hiring process yourself, or if you have no experience in recruitment and want the security of having the admin taken care of.
Once you give the agency details of the role, they can find, screen and interview candidates, either for regular, ongoing hours or ad-hoc, depending on when you need them.
You also have the benefit of someone who is an expert in recruitment to help you understand your needs as an employer and find the right candidates. Some agencies even specialise in staffing for small, growing businesses.
This does cost more than if you were hiring someone directly, but the expertise and time you gain from going through an agency might be a worthwhile payoff.
Bringing in freelancers
You can book freelancers as and when you need them, and often they come with a very specialised set of knowledge and skills. Try to find someone who has worked on similar projects to yours before, which would mean they bring niche experience, helpful insights and relevant talent to the table.
Have a good look around their website so you can check out the kind of work they do on the regular and see if they have any testimonials.
Freelancers often work remotely, depending on the nature of their duties. This means they won’t require any investment from you for equipment and you’ll have a near-global pool to choose from, as opposed to needing someone from your area.
People who work freelance can be really flexible in terms of the days and times you need them – great if you’re not sure what support you’ll need from week to week.
When it comes to cost, you’ll be looking at a day rate that’s much higher than staff members. But remember that freelancers don’t have any of the benefits of paid annual leave, sick pay or long-term security. So, while some negotiation is fair, be realistic about what you’ll need to fork out.
It’s also worth checking their availability when you first have a conversation, as many freelancers have regular clients and can get booked in advance.
Hiring new staff members
Taking on permanent employees is an exciting step for you and your business. Reaching this point means all the hard work that you’ve been pouring into your start-up is paying off and now you have an opportunity to really boost what it can achieve by powering it with the right people.
So, while this milestone is something to celebrate, it also comes with a fair whack of pressure. That’s why it’s so important to get a recruitment strategy in place and think about all your options before you start the process.
Business coach Inge Dowden says:
“At any given time, you want to recruit on attitude and even more so when you’re looking to grow. You want someone who can deal with change (as this is inevitable when you’re growing), has plenty of initiative and wants to go where you are going.
“I’m a firm believer in making sure they have the right personality for the job, and that they fit in with your company culture.”
Here are some steps you can follow to make sure you’re covering all bases.
Define the role and think about how it will grow
While this may be one of the most obvious boxes to tick, it could be one of the hardest, too. New roles can be tricky to pin down as you might not know, in practice, exactly what they’ll entail.
Write down anything and everything you can think of that this new role might need to be responsible for – even things that are only a small possibility. It’s also important to look at your growth strategy and how this role might evolve along with your business.
This will not only help inform what skills and characteristics you need in a long-term employee, but also allow you to offer candidates an idea of how they’ll progress within your company.
If you’ll be passing over some of your own responsibilities to your new employee, think about which ones make the most sense to hand over and which to keep. It might be hard to relinquish control, but it’s vital to allow you to focus elsewhere.
Outline your ideal candidate
Now you have a detailed job description, think about what kind of person would be able to best fill that role:
What skills do they need?
What kind of attitude or character traits would help?
Is experience vital or are personal skills more important if they’ll get full training?
What values do they need to have?
If the job role is tricky to define and will include a large number of responsibilities, consider how dynamic and flexible you need candidates to be.
Don’t downplay the fact that you’ll probably be spending a lot of time with this person – so as well as using professional measures, consider how you’d get along with each candidate on a social level, too.
Write the job ad
Distil all your notes into an honest but concise job spec, focusing on the key points. You don’t want to overload potential candidates at this stage and you can discuss all the finer details in the interviews. Give the role a snappy, easily understandable title, too.
But a spec alone does not an advert make. Introduce the ad by outlining your story, talking about the company and mentioning the exciting stage of growth you’ve arrived at. This will all make the advert more attractive to the right candidates and give them an idea of the working environment.
Remember, you really need to sell your business as a potential workplace to encourage applications and give yourself the best chance of finding the right person. With that in mind, include any employee benefits you offer in the ad, too.
Get the word out
Thinking about your ideal candidate, post the advert in all the places you imagine they’ll look for work. It’s worth spreading the word via your social media channels too and perhaps searching on LinkedIn for potential candidates to send the advert to.
If you have a bricks-and-mortar location, pin up a sign there as well – current customers already know your business and are clearly already sold on it, so may be ideal candidates.
Caroline Raybould, HR manager at HR Dept, says:
“You can’t interview everyone, even if they were all suitably qualified. Therefore, weed out those covering letters which have obviously been cut and pasted, contain poor spelling or have got the company name wrong.
“For the ones that remain, score them against the pre-set criteria you are looking for, and as with so much else in HR, keep records.”
Consider using a recruiter
If this all feels a little overwhelming or you have no experience in hiring, it might be worth considering using a recruiter.
While it’ll cost you a fee, you’ll be in safe hands with someone who knows how to hire, has experience recruiting in your industry and has a large audience to push your advert out to. They can also screen candidates for you, saving you considerable amounts of time.
Plan your interview questions
Teasing out the information you want from candidates can be tricky, so give considerable thought as to how you’ll do this when preparing for interviews.
Perhaps you’re more concerned with soft skills, so want interviews to be more conversational, or maybe a more structured format with standardised questions will help you compare candidates.
Be prepared to answer questions and talk about your company and the role. Make sure each interviewee is aware of the room for progression there is in your growing business. This part is just as much about you impressing candidates as them impressing you.
Don’t rush the process
Recruiting properly is not a speedy endeavour, but invest the time and it’ll really pay off later on. There’s no point in saving a couple of weeks now if it ultimately means you’ll need to restart the entire process again if the new recruit doesn’t work out. Play the long game.
You may want to do a second round of interviews or take some time out after meeting applicants to thoroughly consider your options. Just remember to keep candidates posted throughout the process so that they don’t assume you aren’t interested.
Develop your business with a mentor
As part of the Help to Grow: Management Course, you have access to 10 hours of one-to-one support with a business mentor who has a good understanding of the role of the mentor and the course. Start searching for your perfect mentor now