As a small business owner keeping a constant, eagle eye on expenses, one of your biggest can also be one of your most challenging: Your staff. Managing your employee expense can be a juggling act, as you try to keep it not too big and at the same time, not too small. And here’s the tricky part: While you’re busy keeping your staff expense in check, a legitimate need to grow your team can really sneak up on you. It may take a while for you to recognize it. Many miss is altogether until it is (almost) too late.
There are some signs to watch out for, signs that tell you it’s probably time to expand your staff. Being aware will go a long way in helping you recognize them when the time comes.
- Overwork. Your employees are putting in too many long hours/overtime. Short periods of overtime are expected and manageable, but extended periods of overtime are ultimately self-defeating.
- Burnout. This goes hand-in-hand with overwork and can be a really damaging result, for both the business and your employees, of long hours that are habitual and unrelenting. Indicators of burnout may include mistakes, morale problems and a general sense of malaise and disengagement.
- One job that’s really two. You may not recognize that someone’s doing the job of two until that person leaves. Splitting the job into two won’t bring that employee back should help prevent similar issues in the future.
- Growth of the business. This sounds like an obvious reason for expanding staff but too often, business owners are tempted to delay (and delay) hiring and “wing it” with the employees they have. It’s a short-term strategy that’s bound to cause problems.
- Skills gap. As your business has developed, your need for higher-level IT skills (or any specialized skill set) has increased. Maybe you’ve been covered a consultant or contractor, but now you definitely need to hire.
- Work suffering. The job isn’t getting done. Despite everyone’s herculean efforts to keep up, everything’s falling behind. Face it: You need to grow your staff.
- Sudden spike in business. If you’ve suddenly acquired a major new client or for other reasons you’ve seen a sudden and dramatic spike in business, don’t be tempted to “see how it goes” and then decide whether to expand your staff. If you possibly can, set benchmarks at which you’ll add staff when you reach them.
- Stretched too thin. The devil is in the details, as they say, and unfortunately you’re seeing less and less attention to them! Messages aren’t being returned on time, deliveries are late, customer service is poor—no one seems to be able to do the job the way they once did. They need relief—in the form of an additional body (or bodies).
Recognizing the need is the first important step in successfully growing your staff and ensuring that your human resources are up to the task at hand. Then the work begins: As contributor Marshall Lee describes on DNB’s Business Research (businessresearch.dnb.com), Hiring, Managing, and Growing Your Small-Business Team. Lee says (correctly) that building a team means developing your most important business resource: Your employees.
“They are the heart and soul of your business,” he says. “…to succeed, you will need to grow your small business team with care, patience, and respect.”
Many small business owners, at least in the beginning, are accustomed to being “one-man bands.” If you’re among those setting out to build a team for the first time, be sure to check out the five simple steps to grow your team at yfsentrepreneur.com. Writes contributor Stephanie Goetsch:
“If it turns into too much for you to handle on your own, congratulations—it’s a great challenge to have….It’s time for team expansion.”
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