Hiring Your First Employee Is Scary -- for Good Reason
You quit your job to start your own company. Your first employee left a steady gig to follow you.
What it's really like to hire your first employee? In short, terrifying. It’s one thing to muster the courage to set off on your own, quit your job and launch an entrepreneurial venture. But bringing another human being into your chaos? That’s madness. On the other hand, entrepreneurs often are considered to live on the brink of insanity. Why not pile on more?
Entrepreneurs often feel as if we can do it all. In many cases, we may be right. We establish new businesses, build websites and patch together marketing plans. What's another challenge?
While it goes against our entrepreneurial natures, we must break our superman or -woman mentality and ask for help for when we need it. Here’s what I’ve learned from bringing on my first few employees.
Share your passion but support theirs even more.
It’s important to be passionate about what you do. It’s the feeling that turns work into play and stress into fun. But you should understand your passion will not resonate with everyone. That's OK.
It’s certainly important that your employees believe in your business, your company's mission and the culture you're building. However, I’d argue it's even more important that you genuinely care about and support the people you hire.
You don't need to be BFFs with all your employees. The employer/employee relationship should remain professional, after all. Instead, frame your involvement as taking an active interest in working for them, investing in them and motivating them to be the best people they can be.
This has become more of a trend as the millennial generation has taken over the workforce, but it hasn’t been always been handled appropriately. Your employees don’t care about free beer and ping pong tables. They do care about flexibility, feeling valued and knowing their leader will go to battle for them (and provide comprehensive health benefits).
To show your employees you truly care about their well-being, initiate one-on-one conversations that don't always center on business. Here's how I prioritize these visits with members of my small team.
I schedule weekly 30- to 60-minute meetings so I can gauge their sentiment, workload and life challenges. I also share some of the challenges I'm facing or a few insecurities. It’s amazing what I've learned about my business and my employees' lives, simply by opening up and honestly asking for their input.
I ask how I can support their projects or personal interests. This simple act helps us connect. If one of my employees enjoyed fishing, I might gift them a trip or -- better yet -- ask to go along. I make sure to ask about my employees' partners, children, siblings and other family members. Remembering the little things helps forge relationships.
I do all I can to be supportive without being asked. This one is tricky, because there are a million little ways to support the people who make up my workforce. I'll know the right thing to do only by getting to know each one on a personal level. I make every introduction to my teammates in an extremely positive way. I'm their hype man and their biggest fan. I'm in their corner even if projects go south. I brought them in for a reason, so I must actively show that I trust their decisions and believe in them.
Be transparent and authentic.
Starting a digital marketing agency and hiring people has been the scariest, most nerve-racking experience of my life, and I clue everyone in on that journey.
At first, I was concerned being open about my fear might make me look weak or like a poor leader. Instead, I've gotten incredibly positive responses from the people with whom I work. My partners say, “If it doesn’t scare you, it ain’t worth doing.” Others tell me, “I knew this day would come, Jacob, and I know you will find a way to help everyone become successful, even if you don’t see it now.”
Talk about a humbling experience. Who knew being scared or transparent was admirable?
I've been particularly surprised by how people perceive my company's moniker, ThinkWarwick. I’ve always felt that giving a business one's own name came across as ego-driven -- especially for a company with several talented employees. The again, I originally intended ThinkWarwick would be my personal brand. Little did I know an agency opportunity would arise. I had to get creative when I discovered my desired domain name already was taken. (I'm sure others can relate to losing out on the perfect domain and needing to try wacky combinations.)
As my company grew, I brainstormed new agency names with partners and employees. It quickly became clear they wanted the original name to stay. This floored me. It took some convincing for me to realize they wanted to work under my name, even though our team is about "we" and not just "me."
This might seem insignificant in the larger business scheme, but it changed my entire confidence level. Their reaction to my transparency reinforced my commitment. I vowed I'd do everything in my power to support my employees. It didn't matter that my name was the one on the business.
Now, I openly share insecurities with my team. As a result, we’ve grown together. We actively seek ways to mentor one another as we tackle client challenges and talk things through when one of us feel uneasy about a task.
I still get a bit panicked when I remember I'm responsible for my employees. But bringing them into my world as made the entrepreneurial journey even sweeter.
Jacob Warwick is the founder of ThinkWarwick Communications, a strategic marketing company that specializes in content strategy and public relations for B2B software and tech organizations.