Very small businesses can lack the in-house resources needed to perform certain tasks. Does that automatically mean hiring a new employee, or can you simply delegate to outside resources? Either way, how do you find the right person?
From accounting and bookkeeping to IT support, website development, human resource management, and payroll, all these jobs—and many others—take a level of specific knowledge and expertise that the smallest businesses may not have available in-house. Should you hire someone, train an existing employee, or farm out these jobs to subcontractors?
Thinking about your needs
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, according to Michel Grenier, professor and executive director of Centre d’entrepreneuriat ESG UQAM, a university entrepreneurship center. “It all depends on the type of activity. For example, a website development company is clearly capable of handling its own website. But a machine shop would be better off using a subcontractor for this,” he explains
Businesses have a variety of external resources to choose from to meet all sorts of needs, from tech to administration to communications and marketing.
“Before hiring new employees to fill these roles, you can turn to freelancers or even interns,” says Grenier, who adds that that way you can wait until your business volume is big enough to justify recruiting new staff.
Couldn’t you just provide current employees with extra training (e.g., bookkeeping) to handle these tasks? “That’s an option, but it has to be an employee who is confident and, more importantly, plans to stay with the company. Otherwise, you’ll just lose all that new expertise,” stresses Grenier.
Finding the right fit
Once you've decided to go the subcontractor route, the next step is finding one. How do you find the right fit for you? According to Grenier, one of the surest, most effective ways is to tap your network. “Entrepreneurs that have a good network have an easier time finding the right resources,” he explains.
For new entrepreneurs looking to develop their networks, one good option is to become members of their local chamber of commerce and regularly take part in the events it organizes to broaden their circle of contacts. They can also ask people they went to school with for recommendations or even have current employees weigh in.
Knowing how to recruit
If you opt to hire a new employee, how do you increase your odds of finding someone with the right skills? “First you have to know exactly what types of jobs you’ll need the new person to do. It might sound obvious, but this step is often overlooked. Some entrepreneurs don’t take enough time to consider this,” Grenier says.
- First and foremost, it's important to write up a specific job description that details all the required tasks and responsibilities.
- You also have to think about the values and culture of your organization to be sure to recruit a qualified person who will be a good fit for you.
- Then, how do you get the word out? Job sites can be a good idea, but they may prove too expensive for a small business. Instead, you could float the job opening with your network (e.g., using social media) and ask employees to recommend potential candidates.
- Job fairs are another good place to meet job seekers. And job placement offices at educational institutions can also put you in contact with young graduates. “Recruiters place ads with these departments, which then recommend graduates," Michel Grenier explains. You don’t always have to hire a professional. Sometimes a student can meet your needs. “For instance, accounting students can handle certain tasks in this field.”
- Hiring and getting the most out of a new employee is a major investment for a small business so it’s important to make the right decision. How do you sort through applications to increase your odds of finding the right applicant? “You have to start by eliminating as many résumés as possible. For example, you can systematically reject any applications that don’t have a cover letter or are too impersonal and clearly part of a mass mailing,” says Grenier. That way, you’ll have a smaller pool of applicants to interview.
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