Business boosters: Tips for building a team

When you’re running your own business, you know each hire is critical — particularly when the headcount is minimal. Of the small businesses in the U.S. that have employees, 89 percent have fewer than 20 workers.1 That means every employee truly has the potential to make or break your business. So how do you increase your chances of putting an A team together?

Take the vision test

Before anything else, define the mission and vision of your business. What do you want your company to achieve in the near term and where do you see it heading in the future? Determine the core values of your brand and write them down. For some go-getter entrepreneurs who just want to get on with things, this can seem like a waste of time. But you can’t hire people capable of bringing your vision to life unless you can articulate it. Plus, first-rate talent will ask you to share your leadership strategy before joining. Be prepared.

Recruit like a challenger brand

You want the best and brightest, but may be competing against larger, more established firms, especially in a tight labor market. So, get creative. Plug into your network and reach out to people who have impressed you, professionally and personally. Create an intriguing LinkedIn update. Meet likely candidates for (virtual) coffee and paint a vibrant picture of the opportunity. As you bring people on board, incentivize them to become informal recruiters and spread the word about the company.

Interview beyond the skillset

Finding the right skills is important, but ensuring a cultural fit is critical. For example, if your business lives and breathes customer service, a lack of empathy and sensitivity in a candidate will be a killer — no matter how good the resumé. Probe their personality, attitude, energy and motivation, and give those aspects more weight than experience. Are they passionate about what you’re passionate about? You can even bring top candidates in for a “day in the life” so they can shadow your trusted team members who, in turn, can give you their impressions.

Onboard rigorously for everyone’s sake

One of the biggest mistakes a small business can make is to invest time and energy into hiring,  and then expect the newbie to succeed without formal onboarding. Provide a written job description with responsibilities and accountability clearly defined. Assign a mentor for the first 90 days. Provide training on company procedures, processes and policies. Whatever you do, don’t expect a new hire to just “pick up” the do’s and don’ts of working at the company. Paying attention to onboarding makes good business sense. Studies show it helps employees contribute productively much sooner while increasing their long-term retention.2

When everyone pulls together, the boat moves forward. But if someone is out of sync, it goes in circles, or worse, gets caught in the current. Recruit and hire to put the best people in every position and give them the tools and support to succeed.

Talk to a financial professional about other ways to optimize your business.

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