Monday February 1, 2021
By far one of the most exciting milestones in growing a small business is the moment when it’s time to hire your first employee.
But if you think hiring another employee will instantly make your life easier as a business owner, you may be surprised! An employee should save you tons of time in the long run, but management has a steep learning curve.
I believe management is a skill that anyone can learn, especially if you are organized and have the right tools by your side to keep things organized and efficient. If you’re considering making a hire soon, start laying the groundwork now so your new employee can start saving you time and increase productivity sooner rather than later!
Strangely enough, one of the most common struggles for new managers is finding tasks they can bear to let go of. An employee is a great opportunity to relinquish some of those nitty-gritty details so you can stay more focused on the big picture. Your mindset should always be on replacing yourself. What can you teach to someone else so that you do not need to do it anymore?
Be cautious about just delegating everything “easy” or everything you don’t currently have time for. Really plan out the division of responsibilities.
Give Written Instructions
Unfortunately for those of us who are natural verbal communicators, giving instructions to your employees verbally is a recipe for miscommunication:
- “You never told me to do that.”
- “How was I supposed to know to do that?”
- “But you told me to do it this way.”
- "Oh, I thought you said..."
Those daily, small miscommunications eat away at your productivity and bottom line over time. They can also inrease tensions in the office!
"Daily, small miscommunications eat away at your #productivity and bottom line over time." [Tweet this]
I quickly realized that giving written instructions provided so much more clarity. I created a software tasking system back in 2002 to solve that problem in my business. The tasking system allows me to write out my instructions, supervise employees’ progress on tasks, and make priorities crystal clear, all without the need for an in-person meeting. I have been using it in all of my businesses and can't imagine working without it!
Even if you’re confident you can manage one employee verbally, when you eventually expand your team, you’ll find verbal instructions are difficult to scale up.
I also very much appreciate the written record created and searchable business history.
As a business owner, I am sure you find yourself short on time. If your employees are actually going to save you any time at all, they’re going to have to be self-starters. You simply do not have time for “needy.”
I realized this early on, and I’ve devoted a lot of time to figuring out what creates needy employees. I believe it boils down to how you interact with them when they ask a question. If you drop what you’re doing and give them the answer, or worse, look up the answer, you’re enabling neediness.
Instead, use those opportunities to teach self-sufficiency. I’ve heard so many business owners say, “If I could just clone myself…” Well, here’s how you do it!
I teach how to efficiently find information, we all have access to Google! I encourage my team to bring solutions, not problems. And I encourage employees to “fail fast” if they aren’t sure whether a plan will work. I rarely just give the answer. The result is, my employees are extremely independent, efficient, and empowered — exactly the kind of employees a small business needs to survive.
I have done this countless times with college students who start the job unsure of themselves and needy, but within a month or two - they are running the show!
Manage Time in Increments
Managing another person’s time is one of the most difficult things to get used to with a new employee. How do you decide how long a task should take another person?
The only way you really can do it is to experiment, which is where tools can really come in handy. Start by estimating how long it would take you to do the task. Set this as the time limit for the task. I also encourage you to break tasks into smaller chunks and set shorter time limits when first training. This allows you to check in more frequently to ensure the task is heading in the right direction.
For example, when I hire a marketing writer, I approve time in increments. “Give me a draft in 30 minutes and let’s see where you are.” Getting that kind of granular insight is key, so you can scale up and make predictions for larger projects. Obviously you won’t be able to figure this out in a day, or even a month, but keep on experimenting, keep on documenting, and you’ll start to get a clearer picture of how your employees use their time.
After just a week or 2, you and your employee will establish a rhythm and the time expectations will no longer need to be specified, they will be implied. I recommend re-checking time costs randomly to ensure tasks are still averaging the same time as before.
I also encourage you to implement what I call the “Five Minute Rule.” An employee should never be stuck for more than five minutes. At that point, they either need to start researching or ask me to brainstorm a solution with them.
Maintain Oversight Without Micromanaging
Micromanagement is not efficient and can cause anxiety in your staff. It can also create that “needy” relationship that you should be working to avoid to be a successful manager.
But there’s a paradox in small business: need for detailed insight vs. need for hands-off management. Hour-by-hour, how your employees spend their time determines your bottom line. You need insight to successfully run your business. So how do you get that information without interrupting your team?
"Paradox in #smallbiz: need for detailed insight vs. need for hands-off #management." [Tweet this]
You need a good workflow managemnt software. Because your employees activities (timecard entries, task updates, client notes, and more) all post to a central live feed, called the Workflow Timeline, you can keep a finger on the pulse without your employees feeling like you’re lurking over their shoulder.
During the day, I’m usually too busy to check in regularly with most of my employees. But during my lunch, or after they all leave at the end of the day, I can scroll and skim through the Workflow Timeline and see what everyone has been up to. It’s the perfect balance of hands-off combined with granular insight.
As Your Team Grows, Encourage a Virtual Office
If you’re committed to continuing to grow your business, this first employee you hire won’t be your last. Soon you’ll have a whole team working together toward your vision. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your management techniques are scalable, meaning they work as well for a team of ten as for a team of one.
At my company, we’re always working toward a more and more virtual office. That means fewer in-person meetings, fewer verbal instructions, and more independent collaboration taking place online. It is at a point now where my office is completely silent, all you hear is typing on keyboards. The team is not ignoring each other, they are all communicating via tasks and staff chat. They are very focused and zoned in on their activities. It is actually quite interesting to watch them work so efficiently!
The rewards are many. I can depend on my team to work when and where they’re most productive, whether that’s 9-5 in the office or late at night working from home. There’s a written digital record of all work, without the need for status meetings or micromanagement. And my team communicates freely online, without disturbing the quiet of the office.I wouldn’t want to run a business any other way — nor could I afford to in terms of my time, money, or sanity.
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