Home Invasion

Step One: The Groundwork

Before you decide to hire, find out if local regulations permit you to have employees in your home. In some areas, a special zoning permit is required. You may also need additional insurance; make sure you've got liability coverage in the event an employee is injured on your property.

Next, determine the type of help you need. Do you want someone to assist with the primary tasks of your business? Or are you looking for someone to handle the filing, typing and phones? Make a prioritized list of the tasks you want your employee to perform; use it to form the basis of your job description.

While job descriptions aren't required by law, entrepreneurs agree they're extremely useful. "During an interview, it's important to have a list [in front of you] of exactly what you want," says Jennie Hannah, owner of Occasions Catering and Special Events in Olympia, Washington. Hannah hired her first employee eight years ago; today, she has five full-time employees and 25 part-time servers on staff.

A job description is a tool you can use to evaluate candidates. It also provides prospective employees with an idea of the duties involved in the job they're applying for--ensuring you both have the same "view" of their job responsibilities--while providing you with a means of evaluating performance. (It's much easier to fire an employee for poor performance if you've established written guidelines in advance.)

Make your job description simple yet thorough. The Business Owner's Toolkit Web site (see "Online Resources" on page 75) recommends listing not only tasks but also the skills required to complete those tasks. For example, if you're seeking a receptionist, you might specify courtesy, good verbal communication skills and exceptional interpersonal skills. For an office administrator, you might ask for organizational ability, accounting experience and computer skills.

Your description should include the job title and the hours involved. Some entrepreneurs include a salary range; others prefer to negotiate that at the interview. According to Hannah, establishing a competitive salary range is the key to finding and keeping qualified personnel, since a range that's too low may attract underqualified applicants and compel qualified personnel to pass the opportunity by. Hannah also recommends scheduling regular salary increases to reward performance.

Remember, a salary includes not only the actual amount you pay your employee but as much as 30 percent in additional overhead as well. This includes federal and state withholding taxes, Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes, workers' compensation insurance, long-term disability insurance, vacation holiday pay, and other benefits. Benefits requirements vary among states.

For many, payroll and tax issues are the most intimidating aspects of hiring. Hannah has a solution: Hire someone who has bookkeeping skills. "Why make more work for yourself," Hannah reasons, "when the whole purpose of hiring is to reduce your workload?"

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