When to Hire Your First Employee

Kelly Cantwell

You took the leap, became an entrepreneur, and founded your own company. Your customer list has grown, and you’re beginning to see real results — and also starting to feel swamped.

Even if you realize you need help, you may be feeling anxious and wondering, “How do I know if I am ready to hire? What if something goes wrong?” These feelings are natural, but there are some telltale signs that let you know when a small business should start hiring.

5 signs your small business is ready to start hiring

5 signs your small business is ready to start hiring

If you’ve been doing everything for your business yourself, you may have some fear of hiring employees. But in the end, it’s far better to delegate tasks to someone else than to get overloaded and let the quality of your work or product suffer. And as the founder of a startup, no one is better positioned to assess its development and when your small business should start hiring. Often, the answer is right there under your nose.

1. You have no time to grow your business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably spent many of your early days on marketing, getting the word out about your products or services. As the number of your clients and orders increases, however, it’s easy to become overloaded. You may find that you’re spending all your hours working for your customers or filling orders and have no time left for promotion or growing your business anymore. This is often a sign of when to hire an employee.

2. You’re getting overwhelmed with tasks

How do you know if you’re ready to hire? Look at your task list. As the owner of a startup business, you’re forced to wear many hats, including those of CEO, marketing and communications director, accounting and finance director, social media manager, customer service representative, and more. But aside from not having time to perform all these roles, you may not have the skills or experience to do all of them well enough for your purposes.

You likely have a sense of where your strengths lie — and where they don’t. If you’re getting overwhelmed, this is when to hire an employee in one of the areas where you are falling behind or not as skilled.

3. Your business can support an employee

You shouldn’t consider hiring your first employee unless you can afford their wages. But look closely at your finances first (and get advice from a good accountant, ideally). You may be able to start out by hiring someone hourly or part time to help you process orders, take customer service calls, assist with marketing, schedule appointments with clients, etc. Hiring the right person may allow you to get back to growing your business and could help bring in enough additional income to employ that person full time after a few months.

4. You’re forced to turn down work or you’re losing clients

If things have gotten so busy that clients are either getting turned away or leaving on their own, that’s a time when a small business should start hiring. You can’t grow your business if you don’t have time to accept new clients.

If the quality of your work or your product suffers because you can’t get to everything, you risk damaging your reputation. Damage to your online reputation can follow you for a long time and be costly to fix. The best remedy is not to put yourself in that situation to begin with.

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5. Your services and procedures are well-defined and predictable

If you have clear routines and well-documented procedures and systems in place on how to provide the products or services you offer, this is another sign of when to hire an employee. When bringing someone on board, you want to be certain that their tasks are clearly defined and that you can offer training, guidance, and a steady workload from day one.

Of course, as a startup business, there will be adjustments and changes over time, but no one wants to come into an office in disarray, unsure of how to complete their daily tasks. Given proper guidance, employees are much less likely to feel overwhelmed or bored, and are more likely to stay.

Scared of hiring your first employee? You’re not the only one

Whether you’re a tech startup owner or run an in-home services business, it’s perfectly natural to have a fear of hiring employees. After all, when you’ve built a business from scratch, you don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize it.

Some questions may still be nagging you, keeping you from making the leap, such as: “How do I know if I’m really ready to hire? Can I find someone who’s trustworthy and has the skills I need? Should I create an interview checklist?" These are all legitimate questions — and they can actually help you understand what to focus on and plan for before hiring your first employee. Your fear can be constructive: It’s pointing to areas that require extra preparation and can lead to a successful first hire.

Reasons to carefully plan your first hire

Starting a hiring campaign is not something that should be done on a whim. When it’s time for your small business to start hiring, you need to be sure that you know just what abilities and personality traits the right person will have to help you continue to grow.

  • You don’t want to hire the wrong person. Hiring the wrong person can be far more costly than not hiring at all. In the worst cases, it can lead to a damaged reputation, angry customers, rehiring, and wasted time.
  • You’ll need to make time to train them. Even someone with the right skills and attitude is going to need help understanding where things are kept, how your office procedures work, how to access information, and what tasks are most important. They’ll need time for onboarding and adjusting to your routines.
  • You’re more likely to be a good manager. If you have a clear sense of what tasks you’ll delegate, what your business values are, what skills you need in a new hire, and what work style you have, you’re far more likely to find someone you’ll work well with and to whom you can be a manager and mentor.
  • You’re more likely to keep them. Employees who are given clear direction and guidance from day one are more likely to feel empowered and appreciated, meaning they’ll be more likely to stick with you and remain part of your team.

How to get past the fear of hiring your first employee

Fear of hiring employees stems from a lack of confidence that you’ll get it right. But successful hiring isn’t a matter of luck; it’s the result of proven tools, strategies, and systems. Using a comprehensive online hiring system like Hire Success® can help you prepare for hiring your first employee, giving you everything you need to recruit, shortlist, interview, and even onboard. Hire Success® gives you the confidence you need to know you’re making the right decision and choosing the right person for your growing company.

Kelly Cantwell

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