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How to plan strategically for your first hire as a start-up

Bring in advisers as the company grows

When the company reaches a certain size, you’ll start to feel you can bring on ‘actual’ team members by employing people. It’s worth noting, though that there are a couple of less expensive options before you take expertise on full time.

For example, a twenty-four hour answering service will make it look like your company has a twenty-four hour presence. A human voice to take messages and basic enquiries will be far more effective than just an answering machine, which customers don’t generally like talking to. It will also be a lot less expensive than employing a receptionist.

“And if you become a limited company,” says business adviser Peter Quest, “you can bring people on board in non-executive positions. You might be the ideas behind your business but through non-execs you can then acquire financial or marketing expertise, again without employing full time.”

Having said this, it’s important to be certain of the people you look to for mentor or even non-executive support. You need to make sure they have a well defined place on the team and that they know increased experience doesn’t put them in charge:

“Advisers that come in and try to be paternalistic towards the company are not a good investment for the business,” warns Jon Howes of chip design company NEuW. “If they’re pushing too hard in one direction the business locks, everything becomes a fight and the company doesn’t go anywhere.”

As the company grows your team building needs to take on a more strategic plan – if it hasn’t already. You need to look for the critical success factors in your business or in other words team members crucial to your next stage of growth.

Business Link’s Brian Steel has an example: “If you are company that provides materials for oil rigs, you must have an agent in Aberdeen. Trying to operate this yourself from the south of England will prove more difficult, time consuming and less effective.”

In this case, it is critical to the success of the business that there is someone on site for any questions or problems that arise – and just generally for smooth day to day running.

And this is an ongoing process. Once you have identified and fulfilled an opportunity, it’s time to look to the next one. That way your team and hopefully success will continue to grow – and equally not, if the time isn’t right.

Remember it’s still your business

At the risk of sounding contradictory – and almost certainly patronising – it’s important not to build a team for a team’s sake before you’re ready. If you’re worrying too much about getting the right people in your team then you aren’t feeling the benefit they’re supposed to be bringing.

If too many people are confusing you with conflicting advice, stop listening, shut yourself away and find out what you think. Having a team isn’t an excuse to stop thinking for yourself, unless you don’t want it to be your business anymore.

At the end of the day until you’re a multi-million pound organisation with the shareholders to think of, remaining focused on your ideas for the business is the most important thing. Just make sure your team is there to back you up.

Once you have identified and fulfilled an opportunity, it’s time to look to the next one.

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