The real business of your business is people. Without excellent staff you will not attract and keep loyal customers. How many times have you, yourself, been put off a business by poor customer service? This is especially important in the retail/service industry where competition is fierce to provide the right mix of service and products. What will differentiate you from your competitors will not only be your location and products but also your customer service and thus your staff.
Before you even think about hiring any additional staff, however, you need to consider these questions:
How will the extra person make your business more productive and profitable?
What sort of “hidden” costs will be incurred, such as recruiting, advertising and training?
Will the initial outlay be a long-term benefit or is it justified for the short-term, such as casual staff?
How much of your own time will be spent supervising the extra person?
Are you able to take advantage of any government subsidies to offset the costs of training?
Can you take this person on as an apprentice or trainee and what will that mean in terms of training commitments and subsidies?
What cash reserves will you need to meet the wages and other costs until the employee is fully productive?
Are you aware of all the operating costs which are added to wage costs, such as superannuation, workers’ compensation insurance and leave loadings?
Does taking on an employee mean that you will have to upgrade your premises to meet Occupational Health and Safety regulations and codes?
What other costs will you have to incur to provide physical accommodation for an employee, such as work stations, ramps, plant and machinery, motor vehicle, tools and manuals?
Chances are you already realise the need for extra staff, particularly if you are thinking of improving or expanding your business.
Employing staff costs money, so it’s important that you’re fully aware of how much money you have available to pay any staff and how much you’ll get back in return with increased sales.
With small businesses, there is a temptation to hire family or friends or even friends of friends. It seems like the best solution at the time – you are filling a need for staff and doing a friend or family member a favour at the same time. The drawback is that if it doesn’t work out, it could cause problems within the family or ruin a friendship, especially if you want to terminate employment.
You also need to consider the terms they are employed under, particularly when it comes to family members. If they are on your books as employees rather than part-owners, they are still subject to the same employer/employee regulations, including taxes, superannuation, leave, etc.
If you have more work than you can handle alone, then you should consider whether a casual staff person can help, especially if the extra work is seasonal or short-term, or if you can keep going as best you can.
Another option is to employ someone to help you with the administrative work. Then you can devote more time to the core tasks. Alternatively, you could train staff to do the core work and/or administration while you spend more time on overall management and supervision.
Ultimately, once you decide to employ someone else, no matter who that is, you will need to be the manager and be aware of all that entails, from direct supervision and employee morale to keeping a safe workplace and anti-discrimination laws. You will also need to keep the proper records for your staff such as the employee’s employment conditions and all leave taken.
Prepare to expand
Most businesses start with a passion for a particular task, whether it be desktop publishing or arranging flowers. To expand, you need to step back from the hands-on operation and devote more of your time to management. To help yu analyse what sort of person you will need, you must first itemise the differnt tasks, such as in a business task table.
If yours is a one-person operation, list the tasks you currently undertake. Include all of the work involved in running the business, such as financial management, equipment maintenance and advertising, as well as your core business activities. If you already employ some staff, include their tasks. Don’t forget to include any “outside” work done by professionals such as accountants.
Once you’ve written down all the relevant tasks in the table, mark which ones are most important and which are the least important to the success of your business. Now grade the tasks by responsibility. This is the “hard” part. Here’s where you start to think about what you can and can’t delegate to others.
There are some things, however, that you just can’t pass off to someone else. These include making decisions about the direction of the business, overall financial control and marketing strategies. These are the core management tasks. Mark these on the list.
Some of these core management, or “business control,” tasks you may be very good at and others you may struggle with. Mark down the ones you do best and the ones you do worst.
You have to make important decisions about the work you must do because you are the owner. If you decide to delegate some of these important functions, then your major task will be the general direction of the business and supervision of your manager.
Next, write down the tasks which are not essential functions for the control of the business and which you can easily delegate to someone else.
Finally, allocate how many hours per day or week which are spent on each task. Once you have filled in all the information, you’ll have a clear idea of what tasks make up your business, what’s most and least important, and how long the different tasks take. The different tasks can be arranged into groups which could correspond to a person filling a particular role.
How crucial they are, and when and how often the different tasks are performed, will guide you in working out whether it’s a full-time, part-time, contractor or casual position.
Full-Time, part-time, casual or contractor?
Legal issues aside, under what terms someone is employed depends on a number of factors.
Consider these questions:
Does the task need to be carried out every day?
Does the job need daily continuity?
Does demand fluctuate throughout the day or week?
Does demand peak through several months or at certain times of the year?
Does it have specialist requirements?
Answering these questions will help you to work out what kind of time allocation is necessary for the job.
You may also want to consider an apprentice or trainee. You can check with your state or territory government to obtain your legal obligations for an apprenticeship or traineeship.
Professional, technical, administrative, customer service, low-skilled?
The tasks you have highlighted will help you work out what type of position it is, whether it is professional, technical, administrative, customer service or low-skilled.
Professional staff typically provide intellectual skills.
Technical staff have specific skills of a scientific or industrial nature. Some jobs fall into both professional and technical areas, such as engineers (of all kinds, including software engineers).
Administrative staff perform the tasks needed to keep an office running.
Customer service staff provide services directly to customers.
Low-skilled staff do things that need little training. These are usually manual, and often repetitive, tasks.
When to use a contractor
Depending on your circumstances, you may be better off hiring a contractor for a particular job. Just who is a contractor and who is an employee is increasingly hard to work out.
If you are in doubt, since there are legal and taxation issues involved, ask your accountant, lawyer or government employment and labour department.
As a rough guide, a typical contractor is someone who:
Does a one-off task for a set amount of money
Can delegate the task to others as they choose
Achieves the result in any way they see fit
Uses their own resources to do the job
Carries the financial responsibility if the work is defective
Gets no other benefits from the employer.
Creating a job description
Using the information that you have listed as the essential tasks, or elements, of the job you want to fill will help you to formulate a clear job description.
The benefits of having a good job description are:
It gives you a clear idea of what you want someone to do
It gives the employees a clear idea of what’s expected of them
It provides a benchmark against which you can measure the employee’s performance
It becomes a guideline for interviews.
Even the smallest business can benefit from going through this process because it clarifies exactly what the job is and does. An excellent software package to help formulate job descriptions is MAUS Job Descriptions, especially if you want a more comprehensive job description outline. It has 3,500 built-in jobs plus you can add your own or edit the existing descriptions.