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5 Simple Steps to Hiring Your First Employee

5 Simple Steps to Hiring Your First Employee

It’s awesome to see people creating and growing businesses, particularly when you get to watch them hit certain milestones. Hiring your first employee is one of those milestones. Congratulations!

Whether you’re trying to explode with an innovative tech startup, take your freelancing business to the next level, or anything in between, you’re eventually going to have to hire someone to keep growing.

Don’t worry, it’s not that arduous of a process. Just follow these five simple steps to hiring your first employee!

1. Determine what kind of hire you need.

Do you need a part-time employee, someone to work with you full-time, or someone to whom you can contract out projects and assignments as needed? Maybe you already know the answer. If you’re not sure, answer these three questions first.

How much work is there?

How much work would you be able to give them right now? Another way to phrase this is: How much would you be able to take off your plate, so that you can focus on work only you can do?

How much work will there be?

How much does your new hire need to grow with you? Are you trying to scale? Is the work you’re hiring your first employee to do something you have little-to-no experience in? How important will this person be to you?

How will this affect you financially?

How will choosing a part-time employee, full-time employee, or contract worker affect your finances, tax planning, etc.? Regulations differ between employees and contractors, with an easy differentiator being whether or not you control their schedule.

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It will be best for you to review the IRS’s comparison of independent contractors and employees to better understand the best choice for your situation.

Once you’re able to take a firm stand on which kind of hire you need, then you get to do the most fun job of all!

2. Take care of the paperwork.

Some of this you’ll need to do before you hire, and some of it after. Paperwork is generally everyone’s worst nightmare, but if you take it one step at a time, it doesn’t have to be that bad.

If you’re hiring an independent contractor, things are rather simple. You’ll only need to worry about three forms.

  • Independent Contractor Agreement: This is a form that lays out your professional relationship, ownership of work, and other legal jargon.
  • Form W-9: This is a request for the contractor’s tax ID (or SSN), which is crucial for everyone’s records and payments.
  • Form 1099-Misc.: If you’re going to pay your independent contractor more than $600/yr (likely), then you’ll need to submit this for your end of year tax filings.

If you go on to hire an actual employee, everything changes. It’s not more difficult, per se, but you certainly have more responsibility. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

  • Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS
  • Create records for withholding employee taxes
  • Verify your employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • Report that you’ve hired an employee to your state
  • Get workers’ compensation insurance (requirements vary by state)
  • Post certain required notices/posters in your office that explain relevant laws

For more information on each of these steps, and a complete guide on how to file your business taxes, click here.

Hiring an independent contractor is probably looking good right about now, but that’s not always the best fit. Before making any assumptions, be sure to review point #1 and the linked guides.

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3. Create a job posting.

How should you approach your job posting?

First things first, you and any partners you have need to know what you’re looking for. If you’re not entirely sure, or if your group can’t come to an agreement, try answering these questions.

  • What’s currently your biggest pain point? What could be done to alleviate that pain point?
  • What will be your biggest pain point in six months? What will you need to do to alleviate that pain point?
  • Would you need your hire to more frequently follow a list of instructions, or have autonomy in their work?
  • Will their duties be more task-oriented, creative, project-oriented, or strategic?
  • What interaction will your hire have with you and/or any partners you have?

Once you’ve answered these questions, then you’re ready to craft a job description. Your job description should include:

  • A description of your company
  • A description of your ideal candidate
  • Key or primary duties
  • Less frequent responsibilities
  • Targeted compensation range and any benefits

How should you present your opportunity?

You might hear recommendations to focus on keywords, which many interpret to mean “use a lot of buzzwords.” Don’t do that. Instead, focus on accurately representing your company.

If you’re a trendy creative agency run by a few twenty-somethings, mirror your job description to that personality. If you’re a private practice lawyer looking for a secretary, act like it.

The degree to which you should be professional or casual in a job description depends on the degree to which you are professional or casual in your work.

Now you need to post that job description. Uploading it to Proven will automatically post it to all the major job boards, like Monster, Indeed, and 100+ others. Then you’ll get any responses aggregated through Proven instead of having to go to every individual job posting site.

It’s also a best practice to share your job posting across Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. After all, you’ll probably trust a friendly referral over a stranger’s application.

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4. Conduct the right interviews.

Once you start talking to candidates who meet your criteria, I’ll trust that you know enough about your business and the personalities involved to make the right choice. But here are a few tips for what might be your first time interviewing people.

Don’t talk about these things.

There are a handful of questions you need to stay away from for legal reasons, like those relating to age, marital status, arrests, sexual orientation, mental health, religion, and race.

Basically, stay away from everything people would recommend avoiding during a dinner conversation.

If you get into these topics and choose not to hire that candidate, you could be on the chopping block for discrimination. No one wants that.

For a full breakdown, refer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Confirm compensation.

Make sure you and your candidate are in the same ballpark regarding compensation. If those expectations are not met first, everything else is liable to fall apart.

That’s why it’s important to have this information in your job posting, and why you should confirm you’re on the same page early on.

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Ask either of these two questions.

What would be your ideal situation? Or, what are you looking for in your next step?

Either of these questions should help you to flush out whether your candidate is spewing whatever they think you want to hear to get the job, or if the two of you would actually be a good fit.

A good follow up question could be: What would be a deal breaker for you?

On one hand, you can see if there’s going to be tension with this hire in the role you need. On the other hand, you get to see if they actually know what they want.

5. Take your pick.

If you’re following these simple steps to hiring your first employee, then you have so far decided what’s best for you, completed the appropriate paperwork, put the word out about your opportunity, and spoken with several candidates.

Now all you have to do is actually hire someone! (And finish the appropriate paperwork; see point #2.)

Running a business is a difficult process, and finding the right personnel can be a big stressor. How do you find the right people? How do you make sure your own tail is safe come tax season? But this doesn’t have to be that stressful. Just follow these simple steps to hiring your first employee, and you’ll be good to go!

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Kenneth Burke

Director of Marketing

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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