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Take Advice From These Business Owners on How to Hire With Growth in Mind


One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is deciding when, how, and who to hire. Small business owners are often ambitious hard workers with a lot of passion and a clear vision for what they want the business to be, but they might have difficulty finding the right people to share that vision and take on their share of the work. Other business owners might have good intuitive sense for what kind of people they want to hire, but struggle to create a consistent hiring process – especially as a business scales up and grows beyond its early days as a small start-up.

We talked with a few small business owners and consultants about their best practices, tips, and insights on how to hire the right people with growth in mind.

Make Hiring Good People a Top Strategic Priority

Lots of small business owners assume that there are always good people looking for jobs, and if they ever need to hire, there will always be people available and waiting. But the truth is, the best employees aren’t always immediately easy to find. Finding, recruiting, and hiring the right people requires strategic thinking and careful investment. Matt Turner, founder of Boston Turner Group consultants, said that entrepreneurs should make hiring and human resources a major strategic priority for 2015.

“Attracting, training, and retaining the best employees is going to be the biggest challenge many growth companies face this year, and in an improving employment market, this needs to be a full-court press,” Turner says.

The stakes of hiring the right people – or not – are high. “If a company fails to attract employees that meet their values,” Turner says, “they will miss out on the window of opportunity that 2015 represents.”

Focus on Your Company Culture

Hiring the right people doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you have the money to pay your new employees, you can’t just go online and ask for résumés. You need to have a strong process in place – and more importantly, you need to have a cohesive company culture that attracts and rewards the right people.

Darius_Mirshahzadeh“This isn’t just about recruiting and crossing your fingers,” Matt says. “Growth companies need to have a kind of farm system that attracts and develops future leaders. It’s almost more important to understand the ideals, mission, and revenue formula of the company so that you can truly instill these cultural basics deep into the DNA of your company. Doing so allows your leadership to grow in cycles where leaders help mentor the next generation of leaders and so on.”

Darius Mirshahzadeh, the CEO of Bay Area-based Endeavor America Loan Services, has hired more than 200 local and remote employees in just over a year, and his company has achieved a 90 percent employee retention rate. Darius says that company culture is crucial to successful hiring. “Emphasizing and fostering progressive company culture draws quality employees and keeps retention high. Business owners must have a commitment to build start-up like cultures, even in traditional industries, to foster employee happiness and ultimately keep them around.”

Think Like a Big Company

Big companies often have specific processes to find the right “fit” for each job – like pre-hiring questionnaires, lengthy interview Nancy_Andersonprocesses, and other formal ways of evaluating people to figure out which people are likely to succeed in each job. How can small business owners find the right “fit” without having access to big-company resources, and how do they know when they’ve found it?

Nancy R. Anderson, a small business owner at Blackbird Learning Associates, helps people find work via job search training and interview coaching.

“Small business owners often find the right fit by learning to think like a big business,” says Anderson. “The business owners or their HR partners need to take the time to network either in person or socially to find out the latest hiring trends and focus, and then implement these in their businesses. This not only makes good business sense but it is also necessary from a legal perspective.”

Anderson also says that hiring managers should use consistent interview processes. “Hiring managers need to hire consistently by preparing the same interviewing questions and asking them of each candidate. The questions should be based upon the position and any other requirement of the business. If unfamiliar with the hiring process, the manager and HR need to work together to design a process that is consistent, fair, and non-discriminatory.”

Anderson says that a variety of articles are available from the Society for Human Resources Management that can help small business owners understand and adopt “big company” hiring processes that work for them. She also recommends HR business and networking groups on LinkedIn as a good source of information for small business owners who want to upgrade their hiring processes.

Chas_KlivansChas Klivans is a consultant, psychotherapist, and business turnaround expert who helps companies achieve high growth. He says that small businesses should look to the example of larger companies not only in terms of how they hire, but also in how they are structured.

“Let’s say you run a $10 million company and in three years you want to get to $20 million,” Klivans says. “Locate a ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ of CEOs, CFOs, and CSOs who have built a similar company that is two to three times your company’s current size, and network with them and learn from them. Borrow their company’s infrastructure in terms of the org chart and key position descriptions, and use the same chain of command – but make it ‘corporate lite.’ Import their organization prototype into your smaller company. Now you’ll be able to have the ‘right seats on the bus’ to hit the revenue goal in 3 years.”

Be Methodical

Many small businesses have only a few employees – but what happens when a company starts growing fast and needs to quickly scale up? Hiring higher volumes of people requires a well-organized, methodical approach.

“When you start volume recruiting, especially if you haven’t invested in recruiting software, you need to be organized Sahara_Pynesand efficient,” says Sahara Pynes, Founder and President of HR Solutions Group and Training Mavens. “Develop an auto response to resume submissions and ask a few screening questions about practical scenarios, such as ‘What would you do if…’ or ‘Describe an experience where…,’ and then invite the candidates who make the first cut to a second round video chat or phone screen interview. Some companies also hold a mass interview time, like speed dating, to quickly meet and evaluate as many people as possible.”

Focus and Plan Ahead

Michael W. Roberts, an HR consultant with Caliessen Consulting, says that the “right” way to hire for growth is to avoid going too quickly. Think about the business’s overall hiring needs as part of a detailed plan for various job functions, and make sure you have someone on your team whose full-time job is recruiting.

“The company needs a dedicated recruiter who’ll focus on hiring full-time,” Roberts says. “Then the recruiter has to get a sense for where the business is going and the types of functions, such as Marketing, Finance, Engineering, Sales, and positions – entry level, management, senior – that are required. Decide which jobs are urgent and need to be filled now, soon, or later. It’s also important to hire on a just-in-time basis. Don’t add employees until there is a genuine need, and try not to hire too many employees too quickly. There’s nothing worse than hiring someone who is underemployed from the start, and you don’t want to overwhelm your hiring managers with too many new people at once. You also don’t want your new employees to feel isolated and unproductive.”

Geordie_McClellandHire for Attitude, Train for Skills

Many small businesses worry that they won’t be able to find enough people with the right skills, especially if they can’t compete with bigger companies on salary and benefits. But skills or technical knowledge should not always be the top priority when hiring. Geordie McClelland, Founder and CEO of, said that intangibles and soft skills are often more important. “Don’t get too tied up with the specific skills necessary for a candidate to do the job today,” McClelland says. “Pay more attention to a person’s character, how they think and work. These soft characteristics will be valuable as you ask your employees to evolve as your business evolves. Make sure you hire people who are capable of growing with you.”

Recruit from Within

There are a lot of great online tools and software to help small business owners recruit and hire new employees, but one of the most effective ways to hire is to look to your existing workers first. Your existing workforce can often serve as the best way to spread the word about your company’s job openings.

Dan Langhofer, CEO of PaperWise, says that his company encourages employees to spread the word about why their Dan_Langhofercompany is a great place to work. “We’ve found that word-of-mouth is essential and we want to make all of our employees part of our recruiting force,” Langhofer says. “It’s not uncommon for us to hire five friends at a time because our employees already understand both the fun side and the challenging side of what it means to work in a fast moving and fast growing company like PaperWise.”

Hiring isn’t always easy – it can be time consuming, costly, and confusing, and it’s not always successful. Sometimes the most promising hires don’t work out; sometimes people end up not being a good fit for the job. But if your company wants to grow, you need to get the right people in the right jobs to make it happen. There are many ways to learn from the examples of bigger companies who have been there before – and capitalize on the expertise of helpful recruiters and consultants who can speed up the process of getting your company fully staffed-up and ready for higher levels of growth and success.

Has your company recently started hiring more employees? What processes do you use, or what online tools or resources do you recommend? Tweet us at @KabbageInc and let us know!

Kabbage Team

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