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Hiring Well: Lessons from the Scared and Scarred

Not Hiring Sign This is Part 1 of a two-part series

Almost every new business starts out with the same goals: get clients, get busy, hire people, and make millions… right? The problem with growth is pain.

Sisarina recently set out on a journey to find two new employees. What we found was a plethora of incredible people. Want to know how we made it happen? Pain – good pain from growing, and bad pain from doing it incorrectly in the past.

As a small business, hiring is the most daunting task you can undertake.

Hiring isn’t about just finding the right person and putting them into a position. It’s about all the scary little things that can happen when you have to start paying them, managing them, making sure you put them in the right role, paying taxes, paying unemployment… the list goes on.

Don’t be scared. We promise you that every single new business owner is terrified when he/she hires the first person. If they aren’t, they find the pain shortly after.

In this post I’m going to talk about lessons learned from past mistakes. Here goes:

In April 2009, I found myself a new business owner. My previous boss had asked what I would do if he couldn’t pay me anymore and offered to send me his leads for a commission. I happily took him up on his offer and set up shop in my bedroom with my dog, Bailey. Sisarina opened for business May 1st and the client leads started pouring in. I was lucky, I didn’t have to start from scratch.

The problem: I couldn’t keep up with all of it on my own. I had a part-time developer, two part-time designers along with a pile of accounting and administrative tasks that I couldn’t keep up on while managing projects.

It was already time to find someone to help with the stuff I couldn’t keep up with so I could do what I set out to do – project management & client development. I did what any new business owner would do – I asked my friends if they knew someone who could help. Fortunately a friend recommended chatting with my pastor’s wife, Teresa Thomas.

She started helping me 10 hours a week while teaching at the church preschool. We worked out of the church offices to give us more space to spread out while Sisarina was still young.

Lesson #1: Start small and hire for things you absolutely can’t do yourself while utilizing all assets you can to save money.

Fast forward a few months to what I thought was the need for a part-time project manager. I was busy getting clients and thought it would be better for me to have someone else managing projects. One thing I realized later was that I didn’t really have the pain, I just thought it would be there soon.

Hiring a project manager didn’t work out the way I hoped due to hiring for enthusiasm instead of skill.

Hoping it was just the position and not the wrong fit, I changed the position to a marketing role. Fear of unemployment and letting someone down far outweighed my business sense. I made it personal, when it was really a business decision. In the end, it came down to a lack of desire for helping a business succeed and became about a paycheck.

Lesson #2: Business is business. Hire people who will stand by you through anything & learn from your mistakes.

About six months after making two hiring decisions that didn’t go well, I had an big beautiful office with two people in it and was terrified of ever hiring again. I had let myself and others down. I had a staff of freelance designers, a full-time developer who worked fully behind the scenes and no real reason to hire more.

Teresa moved into a full-time role to help out more and organically moved herself from administrative work into projects. Her desire to help clients and finish projects fit her implementation skills and patience well. She was enjoying her new-found skills.

Lesson #3: Allow your employees to grow based on what they love to do. They’ll find passion in their job & do it better.

These were three big lessons I learned when hiring the first time around. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll go into more lessons learned (yes!), but this time, from the present.

Image: GoTRISI via Flickr, Creative Commons

More from Women Grow Business:

Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.


    1. Interesting article. As a veteran entrepreneur who’s had her share of hiring successes as well as misfires, I can certainly relate to the struggles and anxieties of taking on new personnel.

      I agree with Lessons 1 and 3 wholeheartedly: a) starting small, and b) allowing the people you hire to work at what they love. Great advice.

      I’m confused about Lesson 2, though: “Hire people who will stand by you through anything & learn from your mistakes.” I don’t understand what ‘stand by you through anything’ means.

      In the sentence leading into Lesson 2, you make reference to someone not working out ‘over a paycheck.’ That leaves me baffled. Was this person not getting her paycheck? If not, then why would she continue to help you grow your business? It seems to me that when you hire someone, you enter into a contractual agreement with that person: they do what you ask of them, and you pay them for what they do. Period. It’s simple. And if the paycheck doesn’t come through, it’s quite understandable that your employee would leave.

      Can you help me understand what you’re getting at with this point? I can’t imagine you feel it’s reasonable to expect that an employee show loyalty to your business growth and struggles while you, in turn, do not necessarily feel obligated to fulfill your commensurate responsibility to compensate them – in a timely manner – for the work they do.

      I figure I must not be following you clearly. Would you help me understand your point? I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

      Thanks for an interesting article!

      Linda Rivero

      Founder & CEO

      Global Action Network of Entrepreneurial Women

      http://www.ganew-connect.com

      http://www.GlobalFeminineRising.com

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    2. @LindaRivero Hi Linda. I think working for a start-up has some inherent risks that you should be prepared to accept. The occasional late paycheck is one of those risks. Believing in a company enough to work for them sometimes means taking it on faith that your check will be paid soon. Certainly, a company choosing not to pay you regularly because they don’t feel like it is a different issue. As is working unpaid for months and months.High Risk / High Reward is the name of the game with start-ups and one should definitely keep that in mind when choosing whether or not to work for one. Our paychecks at Sisarina were never skipped and seldom more than a few days late. It was a nerve-wracking time, for sure, but it didn’t last forever. If you can live with that, working for a start-up may be for you. Otherwise, a more established company is probably more your style.

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