Hiring staff costs, so you’d better be:
a) Sure you have enough work for them; and
b) you can afford them.
Often the answer to point b) is you can’t afford not to hire!
Many people put off hiring to save money when the lack of hiring is actually costing them through inefficiencies.
Signs you need to hire include:
* You are fully booked but have a cashflow problem.
Chances are regular invoicing would solve your cashflow problems. Hiring someone to do the bookkeeping and invoicing, including chasing invoices, will not only free up your own time to win and manage more work, but it will vastly improve your cashflow position.
* You’re working into the night and can’t take a break.
If you’re still on the tools this might be an indication it’s time to hire a foreman/site manager so you can free up some daylight hours. Many tradies struggle to let go of doing the work themselves, but your business will not grow until you do. Finding someone with your skillset, work ethic and eye for detail is an impossible task, but a lot of times people won’t hire because they’re having trouble relinquishing control of the work. Find someone with the skills you need and manage the rest.
Alternatively, you can find someone to do the office work for you. Hiring an external bookkeeper (see point 1) is a very good option, and that might solve your problem if bookkeeping is the task keeping you up at night.
Pricing is a different story. If you’re still on the tools, chances are you don’t have enough work to hire a fulltime estimator, but there are estimators who price on a project-by-project basis. They don’t come cheap, but they’ll help you meet pricing deadlines and win more work.
* You want to grow but don’t have time to work on your business.
The only way to grow a financially sustainable business is to work on its structure. Most people put off the development of a quality-assurance (QA) system, like policies and procedures, but I guarantee your business will only grow so far without it. You can outsource this but, in my opinion, developing the system in-house is far more effective. Yes, it’s a good idea to engage a consultant to guide you through the process, but it’s far more effective when the people working in the business streamline the process of running it.
So, in short, you need to hire people to free up your time to work on the business.
* You identify a skills gap within your business.
You may be missing an on-tools skill or an off-tools skill, but either way you need to fill that skills gap. First identify the gap, then work out if you can upskill yourself or a colleague to fill that gap, or if you need to hire in. Then, calculate how much of that type of work you have. If it’s not full time it might be worth subcontracting out.
Some people are afraid to pay to upskill staff for fear of them leaving, but research shows it builds staff loyalty and job satisfaction and contributes to staff retention.
When making an external hire to meet a skills gap, do your homework and make sure you are hiring someone who can and will fill that gap.
* You have frustrated customers.
There are my reasons for customer frustration and dissatisfaction, but the main ones are poor communication, poor workmanship and long lead times to complete work.
Poor communication is usually the result of the boss working too hard and not having time to return calls or get quotes back on time. The solution is, as per the points above: outsource bookkeeping; hire someone to replace you on the tools; and systemise your business practices, putting procedures in place that ensure your customer is not left waiting long.
Poor workmanship and long lead times come down to onsite management. You may need to employ a project manager (PM) to make the teams more efficient and control the quality of workmanship. If you are the PM, you probably need to hire someone to take on some of your other roles to give you more time to do the PM job properly.
* You have enough work to keep an extra foreman/PM/tradie/labourer/bookkeeper busy
If you have a staff member who is so under pressure they are making mistakes and are at risk of burnout, you probably need to hire help to take the load off them. It’s hard to know when to put that extra person on, worrying about if you will bring enough work in to justify the extra cost, but if your work pipeline is strong and this position is causing a bottleneck, it’s probably the right move.
Now you’ve identified the need for a new hire, you need to do your due diligence. Run the numbers to make sure you can afford them, and they will be a good return on investment. Clearly define their job role and write policies and procedures they will follow when performing that job. When you clearly set out how that person will work in the business, and how they will interact with colleagues, they will be more cost effective and efficient. Yes, it takes time to write up a job description with KPIs, but it’ll cost a lot more time and money if you don’t do it!
Last of all, carry out regular performance reviews to ensure the new hire is making a positive impact on the business and meeting their KPIs.