When should you hire a new employee?

Crazy workload?

When should I hire a new employee?

This is a question that has plagued many small business owners as they plan for—and then experience—a growth phase. There is no easy answer, but in general, it’s better to be prepared than to scramble around looking for an extra hand when the workload increases.

Ideally, you would plan in advance and have a flexible, part-time employee from as early on as possible just to help with the administration. The idea is to train him or her to handle essential but non time-critical work.

The reduced workload should allow you to concentrate on building the business but should not break the bank. Consider offering flexible hours. We have found some great staff that can work a few days per week during school hours only.

Nowadays, you can often find very useful outsourcing services to perform some of the tasks until the workload builds to a point where you need someone in-house. Consider a virtual receptionist service that takes calls and messages when you are unavailable or a service to follow up on outstanding invoices, especially if you tend to leave the “dirty” jobs when faced with an overload.

One of the biggest mistakes—and I am guilty of this myself in the past—is leaving it too late and having to advertise, go over resumes, short-list, interview and then train a new member of staff when you are already in the middle of a business expansion phase.

You tend to panic and jump at the first candidate that seems right; often to find later that in your rush to fill the position, you did not do your homework and may regret the hasty decision. This is the period that can make or break your reputation. Taking your focus away from your clients or process at this stage can ruin all your hard work.

If you are really committed to building your business, then you need to treat this like insurance or a contingency plan for the business. Although it’s not totally necessary at this stage and may hurt your cash flow, it is often for the protection of your reputation.

If you do leave hiring to a time when you are very busy, then consider using the services of a recruitment agency to do the advertising and short listing of candidates. Did you know that Mission Australia Employment and similar agencies get government support to take your brief, search their database and short list candidates for you? These services are free to you.

They can often arrange additional training for the additional help to fill gaps in their skills. Their service is ideal for administration, hospitality and support staff, and we have found them excellent to deal with.

My point is this: the time to hire a new employee is BEFORE you really need him or her. It’s when the risk of not having a new employee is greater than the cost of bringing them on board.