Hiring: It isn’t for sissies

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick writes about business for her column, with a departure to “no business allowed” in her blog “After Hours.” Even the print magazine’s parameters are loose for Jody, as she writes from the heart and typically more toward HR or human interest topics.

Do you hire a new employee when the company’s financial forecast suggests you can make payroll for the next quarter – or when you need one more person to guarantee making payroll at all?

Small businesses don’t have margin for error, so a hiring decision is never made flippantly. In terms of ROI, some hires jump right in and pay for themselves quickly; some are investments in future lines of revenue, and some are just a drain, period.

We all talk about wanting to create jobs, but that’s not what we’re in business to do. We’re in business to run a profitable company that delivers what customers expect at a price that allows us to stay in business another day. To create a job just to create a job, well, that’s a social pipe dream.

Even when the business flourishes to the point of making a new hire necessary, that’s not a guarantee of success if the softer costs of adding one more person actually jeopardize profits. And then there is the hire that simply saves jobs, by helping keep you in business another day. No growth, necessarily, but it’s an essential hire to keep up.

I’ve played the accordion at IB – hired during good times, cut positions during hard times, and probably over the years, I’ve kept some employees too long, and hired others too soon. Hopefully I’ve learned from those mistakes. I know I’ve been "hiring shy" the past couple years and so hiring a staff writer and a digital media publisher already this year was huge for me.

Along the way, I’ve learned some other things, too. If you want the best but can’t afford it – the person who would immediately be an asset at the time of hire – rethink what you can offer. Set the salary you can afford, and then adjust the hours to make it the salary the best candidate is willing to work for. Your full-time salary, for someone you could "afford," might be a part-time salary for the clearly superior hire. Can they do the job in less time, with less training, less infrastructure cost? Then make it work for all parties so that they are well paid for hours worked, and you get someone you otherwise couldn’t touch.

Likewise, sometimes you have to put financials aside and rethink what is a luxury and what is a necessity. Getting things done is a necessity. Many companies have grown tremendously in product offerings in the past few years, while revenues have not grown in tandem – I have interviewed countless CEOs and managers who say they diversified because they were beginning to lose revenue and had to come up with new streams. They’ve had to maintain a very lean staff to sustain a profit margin, so everybody on board is stressed while the company readjusts. Sound familiar?

More and more, I’m also hearing that after all key functions are filled, there still is a missing link. The "do-er" between departments. The administrative assistant who makes sure all the good ideas that surfaced during this or that meeting get done by follow up. How do you measure ROI for that? And how do you fill that position?

What’s missing is the assistant who cuts an executive’s non-productive time in half.

Most managers receive, on average, 50 calls a week and 110 e-mails a day. Mixed in are questions that have nothing to do with the core business. In my case, they are questions about doing business, questions about how to get published, questions about the radio show, questions about who owned what company six years ago. In other words, questions someone else could answer. The problem is, for us and likely for you, there is no one else to answer them.

Now, having promoted Jon to Associate Publisher, I’m going to make sure he doesn’t inadvertently become the convenient administrative assistant because (like your business) IB isn’t done growing yet. I need him doing his bigger job. So I’ll make one more hire this year.

Will the governor take credit for creating the three new IB jobs this year? Probably. But we know who takes the risk, who really does it, and why: to keep going forward.

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