Probably one of the most stressful situations I’ve had since owning my small business is the time my key employee, my first hire, decided he was going to quit.
He was so nice about it – gave me a two-month notice so I’d have plenty of time to find someone new. He offered to stick around to train this new person. I couldn’t have been given a more generous notice.
Well, two months of trying to replace him was a complete disaster. It was hard to find someone that wanted a part-time job with a ton of responsibility. When we finally did find someone willing to work for the pay and hours I was offering, she only lasted two weeks! She told me she was going to leave to go back to her old job because they upped her pay and benefits!
Why didn’t I have a better job opportunity to offer?
I was constantly afraid that I wouldn’t have enough work to make anyone full-time, and that’s why I kept my key guy hourly. With that came job insecurity and no real growth. I couldn’t see the forest from the trees. I had plenty of business coaches tell me that if I wanted to grow, I would need more help. But every time payroll came around, I would stress. So, how on earth do you go from no cash in the account to promoting and hiring someone full-time?
During this period, I burned through cash hiring contractors to try to keep projects afloat and clients happy. I was drowning.
Before he finally left, I took my key employee to lunch. He told me the real reason he had to leave was that he was ready to settle in somewhere where he had real opportunity and could make a decent living. And it just didn’t seem like I was in a place to offer that to him.
I had only enough time to do a Hail Mary-like play. I offered him a full-time, salaried job to keep him. (And thankfully, he said yes.)
And you know what? It was the best move I ever made.
It forced me to clean up my cash flow, pricing and billing systems. It forced me to get better processes in place for projects. He was able to take on more responsibility to help alleviate a lot of the stress I was bearing so I could focus on sales and operations.
Almost immediately, my company was making more money. He more than paid for himself. I want to say it was magic, but it’s not. It’s strategic investments in the RIGHT people for your business. My fear of growth was truly holding the business back.
Here are some tips if you’re struggling with making those “people” investment decisions:
- If you’re looking to hire key employees, make sure you hire quality and make sure you hire someone that believes in the business you’re building.
- Don’t be afraid to figure out how you can fairly compensate them. They want to feel good about coming to work and understand that you respect their value.
- If hiring who you need is not something you can afford, then you need to fix your business. There’s something wrong with your business model.
- Find clever and fun ways to reward your employees for hard work when you can’t do it through traditional employer benefits.
- Remember: you absolutely must create the capacity for growth BEFORE you need it. Believe in yourself and your growing business and hire people so you have the resources in place so you can take care of your customers the right way.
The first step is the hardest. The following steps are a little easier to handle – I promise!