Startup Stock Photos

Hiring a first employee is a significant step for any entrepreneur. Having been the first employee myself, and having hired a first employee as a small business owner, I’ve seen this play out from both sides of the equation. It’s a big decision and certainly not one to be taken lightly.

In addition to the challenges of finding the right person, it’s also expensive to expand your team. Some estimates put the cost of hiring a new employee around $4,000 — which makes sense when you consider the time you spend looking, the expenses associated with a new hire, and all the other miscellaneous costs most people neglect to count.

With that in mind, here are four questions you might consider asking yourself before you make that first hire.

Do I have more business than I can handle myself?

Many small business owners work for years as sole proprietors who rely on freelance or temp workers to get them over a busy couple of weeks or an anticipated busy season. Over the 30-plus years of my small business career, I’ve noticed two distinct conditions for many small businesses: growth or atrophy.

It seems like businesses seldom maintain the status quo for long. For business owners, when growth continues beyond the anticipated busy season and it becomes harder to keep up the pace, it might be a good time to consider hiring your first employee.

Is there expertise I need that I don’t have?

It’s not uncommon for a small business owner to be a subject matter or technical expert in product development, sales, marketing or some other facet of running a small business. It’s the rare bird that can continue to wear all those hats as his or her business grows.

Many entrepreneurs, as they consider growth, also evaluate their personal core strengths and where they might need additional expertise to facilitate that growth. If you determine that you lack fundamental skills to help propel the business forward, it might be time to consider hiring that first employee.

Are my customers complaining?

Even the best businesses sometimes hear complaints from customers. When customers (even your best customers) start complaining about customer service, slow deliveries, or start talking negatively about you on your Facebook page or Twitter feed, it might be time to think about that first hire.

Some small business owners find the expense of the new employee is well worth it when they consider how much more the extra pair of hands can help them accomplish. Will that be the case in your business? That’s something you’ll have to determine.

Where does it make the most sense to spend your time?

It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of all the day-to-day tasks that need to be done in a small business. Orders need to be filled, sales calls need to be made, invoices need to be cut and deliveries need to get to customers. When you’re the only employee, you do all these things. As your business grows, if you start feeling like you’re spinning your wheels doing things that need to be done, you might want to consider hiring your first employee.

There will likely be days when you miss being the only employee — let’s face it, although adding employees can be good for the business, it also adds a level of complexity that didn’t exist when you were flying solo. Nevertheless, sharing your dream with that first employee can be very rewarding as you work together to meet customer needs and build a successful business.