As your business grows, you’ll encounter many milestones along the way. You’ll hire new employees, take on more clients and evolve your products and services. Although challenging, this growth is a chance to prove yourself in a competitive marketplace.
However, there are certain realities you’ll face during growth that are not easily overcome. From how employees work to how well you know you team, there is a flurry of roadblocks that await your brand. During times of change and growth, entrepreneurs must make difficult hiring and promotion decisions.
While you may one day have an entire human resources team dedicated to talent, this is not a luxury all brands have. For those who don’t, there are certain strategies all entrepreneurs should use to prepare for hiring hurdles.
How to decide to promote or hire
At the first stages of any new business venture, every employee is a key contributor. With a limited staff, there’s no option but to see each team member as 100 percent valuable. However, during expansion periods, you will suddenly need to fill new roles. It’s a good problem, because it confirms your brand is doing well, but it also raises the question -- who should fill these positions?
A common mistake is to automatically promote from within. While someone on your team may have been a great doer from day one, this doesn’t mean he will be an amazing manager. As you grow, an employee’s value will evolve often independent from job titles and hierarchies. In the early days at Dotcom Distribution, hiring outsiders for management roles was sometimes the better choice. However, doing so can be difficult, so try these techniques.
- Be upfront. New hires -- especially those at a management level -- should never be a surprise to your team. These people will be integral to the daily work experience of existing employees, so their appointment must be handled delicately. Transparency with hiring decisions abates early waves of confusion or resentment.
- Consider cultural fits. Consider personalities when hiring new management. Be sensitive to how applicants will mesh with those they’ll supervise and work with daily. To start, this means you must be attuned to your team’s personality types and office environment. For example, an over-the-top boss may overwhelm a quiet workplace. New hires should embolden the team you already have in place, not disrupt it.
- Take advice from your team. If you trust your team, you should value their opinions during in the hiring process. While it might not always be practical to involve them directly in interviews, reach out for their advice on resumes or interview questions. As your team will work closely with this person, incorporating them into the hiring process will make them feel valued and possibly reveal insights about a candidate you might have otherwise missed. Listening to your team can even help you know when the right time to hire is. I host monthly lunches where I meet more casually with employees, and if I see that someone is stressed out or regularly hear workload concerns, that’s a signal it might be time to bring in some support.
- Value humility. Hiring externally often means new managers will be trained by those they supervise, so seek out prospects that exhibit humility. New management should never walk in thinking they know everything, but should instead be eager to learn from those around them. I learn from my team every single day, and I expect all employees to be open to doing the same.
In any situation where you choose to hire rather than promote, make sure you explain to your team why decisions were made. Employees should always feel important and useful, even when their value doesn’t align directly with promotional needs.
Allow roles to evolve over time.
To handle growth, you also need to be flexible enough to expand upon the roles your brand started with. Our team made a commitment to doing things differently from the beginning. Going against industry norms, we always had a team member dedicated at least part-time to client relations. But as we won bigger business, we had to create an entire department to manage these client relationships. With a current team of seven full-time client service staff, developing this role has paid off in dividends in the long run.
We also see these changes happen with clients. When we started working with a luxury ecommerce retailer, we dealt with a single contact to coordinate all of our services. As their company and our services matured, our clients’ employee roles evolved, and we had to adjust accordingly.
Your team can help you adapt here. As the foundation of your brand, your employees have better awareness of what responsibilities are outdated and where opportunities for improvements exist. Let them be involved in defining new job descriptions -- invite them to a management meeting, or gather their feedback through an online survey. Not only are you likely to uncover new internal structure options, but you will also give staff the chance to vocalize concerns and find ways to increase performance in a mutually beneficial way. While the final decision on role updates should always be yours (or an executive team’s), extra input is helpful.
Over the next few months -- or even years -- you’ll only ever be as good as the team you surround yourself with. Making the best hiring decisions and creating the right roles will be vital to your brand’s continued growth.