21 Quick Startup Fixes

The People Side

"I've never hired employees before, and I want to do it right the first time."

13. Figure out what you need before you begin the hiring process, then write complete job descriptions for every position. "Hiring mistakes often occur when you make the decision based on what you're trying to get rid of--like doing the books--instead of what you really need," says Randy G. Pennington, president of Pennington Performance Group, a consulting firm in Dallas. "A job description that covers specific tasks the person must perform, the results you expect, and the skills required to do the job allows you to conduct a more effective interview, balance your current needs with growth potential and increase the likelihood of the new hire's success."

Pennington also suggests developing your organizational chart and the accompanying job descriptions before you hire your first employee. "Look two to five years out at the company you want to create," he says. "You might be small now, but you shouldn't think of your company that way if you want to grow."

14. Set policies before you need them. Don't think that just because you're a small start-up you can do without personnel policies. "Start-up companies can be very flexible, and it can be very inviting to make up the rules as you go along," notes Pennington. "But failing to establish clear policies and practices before you hire can lead to misunderstandings, lost productivity, higher turnover and even possible legal exposure. You don't need a 500-page policy manual, but you do need to write down your expectations regarding performance, professional conduct, attendance, reporting procedures and any other critical component of your business."

"Isn't it hard to find good people these days?"

15. Be creative in your search for employees. "'Help wanted' ads are great if you want quantity," says Pennington. "If it's quality you need, consider looking other places. Ask your good employees and applicants for the names of friends they would want to work with every day--good people usually hang around with good people. If you need experienced people who can work part time, call your local AARP chapter for referrals. Community colleges, universities and technical training programs are also good places to look."

Just because someone has a job, don't assume they wouldn't consider a change. If you know some people who are excellent workers and have the skills you need, ask them if they're interested in discussing the opportunities you have to offer.

"I can't afford to offer the benefit packages big corporations offer."

16. Few small companies can, and the solution is low-cost perks. Pennington says if you think the only rewards that motivate your staff are money and expensive benefits, you're wrong. Look for creative perks that won't cost you much, such as flexible hours or telecommuting. To find out what appeals to your staff, Pennington suggests asking them what you could offer that would make them willing to do their jobs for 1 percent less than what they're being paid. "The answer will tell you the things that really motivate them," he says, "but don't reduce their pay!"

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 21 Quick Startup Fixes.

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