It Takes A Village

Finding the Right People

You have to set minimum standards, and be resolute in not settling, no matter how long it takes to find these people. Having someone who's going to work with you in your home is different from hiring an office employee. As White points out, "This is someone to whom you may give the keys to your front door."

So what should you look for?

*A person you'd like to have around. "Trust is the most essential thing for me," says Susan Trainer, CEO of Trainer Public Relations in Danville, California, and an employer of eight. "I'm trusting these people with my most precious commodities: my family and my business."

*A person who's comfortable with how you work and think. If you're serious when you say "This needs to be done right away," and an assistant is too much of a perfectionist to stop what she's working on to handle this urgent matter, you're going to go out of your mind. The same is true if you're concerned about your children when they're on the play equipment in the backyard and your child-care provider is cavalier about their safety--the match is obviously wrong.

*Someone with a track record. "Simply saying you can do something is different from actually doing it," says White. Someone's prior experience reassures you he or she can handle the job.

*Someone who's coachable. Even though experience is important, your way of operating may be what makes your business (and your home) successful. You want someone who understands the rationale behind your thinking and who's in tune with you and your desire for success.

*Someone who's willing to commit to the long term. Interviewing and coaching are time-consuming tasks. Unless you want someone for a temporary assignment, it's best to hire people who see this job as something they want to do for quite a while.

You can, of course, advertise for life helpers. And that sometimes works well. But an even better way of finding them is to talk to people you trust who know you fairly well. People won't usually refer someone unless they're pretty certain about that person's character and ability.

Keep in mind that recognizing you need help to operate a successful business out of your home isn't a sign of weakness--it's a sign you have your priorities in order. "I'm not interested in the `corner office,' " says Trainer. "I care about earning a good living and maintaining autonomy in my life. Having the right people in my life has made that possible."

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