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Need a Hand?

Sure, employees would be nice. But what kind and what for?

You're terribly busy. You're mailing the wrong stuff to the wrong people, and you can't remember where you put your contract proposals. To say you need help is an understatement; but before you hire your first employee, make sure you have the basics down.

"Don't start hiring too soon," says Leonard Homer, an adjunct professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and founder of small-business operational-support company Essential Business Solutions. "Don't do any hiring until you sit down and figure out your milestones and your staffing plan."

Assess the local employment market, and be sure to check out PricewaterhouseCoopers' "Salary Survey" and other salary publications for compensation information as well as hiring and layoff trends in your industry and community. The Society for Human Resource Management is another good starting place-the organization can answer any questions you might have about the legal and technical issues involved in employing workers for the first time.

Even if you need help right away, remember that a full-time 9-to-5er isn't the only route you can take. Explore the benefits of temporary help, contract workers, freelancers, part-timers or work-at-home employees.

However you decide to build your staff, abide by Homer's golden rule: "Have open communication with your employees from the start. As long as you practice what you preach, it works."

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This article was originally published in the November 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Need a Hand?.

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