Posted: Fri 21st Dec 2012
As your business grows, you'll need help to keep on top of it. Taking on freelancers is one solution, but you might feel secure enough to employ permanent staff. Ian Cowley, founder of printer cartidge retailer Cartidge Save, offers his five tips for making sure you get the right people into your business.
Taking the decision to recruit as a start-up can lead you down a path fraught with problems, writes Ian (left).Â When you're working by yourself, for yourself, a little by-the-seat-of-your-pants action wage-wise is a small price to pay for building your own empire. The sleepless nights come, however, when you know you're responsible for someone else's mortgage. What should you do when your workload means you have to embark on this journey?Â We're no experts, but over the years we've honed a few approaches through trial and error. Here's our top five"¦
We've all been there and employed the wrong person, spending the next two years waiting for them to move on. Furthermore, forecasting at the start-up stage is hard.Â Yes you've won a project that requires extra staff for five months - but can you guarantee the work after that? Temp-to-perm is a great solution. It's one we adopt in our warehouse for three reasons:Â firstly, it provides a means for both parties to test each other out. Secondly, employees prefer the transparency of this contract above the much-abused probationary period. Thirdly, for those eager for a job, it's a chance to prove their worth, driven by the end goal of a full-time position.
2. Start them young, train them up
Loyalty is all important within a small business. You can create it by investing in someone with potential and filling them with the encouragement, skills and confidence to act as your right arm. We've worked with staff fresh from university and by dedicating time to teach them from scratch, before they are influenced by bad habits from other companies, they've benefited from quick promotion, yearly pay increases as a reflection of their capability and the knowledge of exactly how we like something done.
3. Use agencies
Recruitment takes time - time you don't have if you're in the fortunate position to recruit. We use agencies now for 80 per cent of our workforce positions. They cut out three-quarters of the time we've previously invested in issuing ads, rifling through CVs, setting up first interviews, being stood up at first interviews, organising the second... A good agency with a clear brief will know what you want and manage the preliminary selection so that you can concentrate on seeing a strong shortlist. And the commission those agencies take is more cost-efficient than your time spent searching.
4. Put them to the test
Take the emotion out of recruitment. A gut-instinct is important - we all know it's the guiding principle for entrepreneurs, or else we'd still be working unhappily for someone else. But you also need someone who is smart. As a result, we always test our candidates. The depth of testing is proportional to the position, but always includes maths, English and problem solving. I've been bowled over in the past by an amazing interview, only to find out by day two that the candidate can't read, write or follow a process. Let your head ultimately rule your heart and only make an offer once you're happy with the black-and-white results of a test designed by you to identify the skills you need.
5. Bring in new blood
When you get to the stage of taking on senior management staff, look outside the business rather than promote from within. It's important to breathe fresh life into your business with an experienced recruit who offers a different way of looking at your company. It will mean paying market rates but their insight will make it worth it. Recruitment is a huge step. You need to know basic HR principles to navigate it all successfully. But, most importantly, you have to keep focused on what's right for you and what's right for your business. No matter how busy you are, you must retain the single-minded end-goal-in-sight attitude you've applied to your business, to recruitment. Don't settle, look at the employment options available and choose carefully. Good luck and happy employing! Ian Cowley is the founder of Cartidge Save, the UK's largest dedicated printer cartridge company. Photo credit: Andreas Klinke Johannsen