In this blog post, I’m going reveal all about hiring my first employee for Stada Media. I was still very possessive over this new business that I’d created, and I had a lot to learn – but I didn’t know this just yet. Read on and find out what happened. This is the Diary of an Entrepreneur.
At the beginning of my business journey, it was just me on my own. I worked with freelancers here and there when I needed to, but it was mainly just me alone. I was doing everything: filming, editing, script writing, admin, accounts, working with clients. Everything. It was literally 15 hours a day.
However, winning our first six-figure client meant that I had to start hiring. That’s because there was no way I could have managed that job on my own – it was physically impossible.
So, I had to guarantee that if we were to do this job, we would hire accordingly and be able to service that contract.
Where to start?
However, I had absolutely no idea where to start with hiring my first employee – and recruitment in general. Where would I look? How would I write the job description? What should the job title be? How much should we be paying them?
Furthermore, I could only afford one person at this moment in time – so it was figuring out who to hire.
The to-do list
Nevertheless, I had to start somewhere with hiring my first employee. So, I grabbed my notebook (I still work with notebooks to this day, by the way), which contained my ever-expanding to-do list. I worked out what tasks I could outsource and put them into little piles.
Eventually, I had a list of potential positions that we needed to fill. There was more admin-type roles, such as accounts, which could be easily outsourced to an external company. However, there were also a whole batch of other things on the list.
I thought, wow – this would be really useful to have somebody in the business to pick these jobs up and make my life a lot easier. This was because I noticed I was spending the majority of my time working on these tasks that I shouldn’t be focusing on. They were very important jobs, but I realised I should be focusing on jobs that I’m better and stronger at.
So, after a lot of thought, I decided we were going to hire a production assistant.
Finding a production assistant
The production assistant job was high on my list when thinking about hiring my first employee. They would help with project logistics – with this six-figure job, there was a lot of filming, finding locations, dealing with freelancers, working with talent and many other things. I needed somebody who could deal with all of that.
The way I found my production assistant was by simply sending out an advert on Indeed and sharing it on Facebook – and we ended up hiring a postgrad, fresh out of university. This meant we could pay cheaper.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – he’s tight! He’s not paying full whack?!
We didn’t have much money. To be fair, at the time, I didn’t really know how much we should be paying – but I had to be really careful. So, I thought it made sense, saving me a lot of time and hassle thinking about it. It was over minimum wage, but definitely down the lower end – which you’d expect in a postcard position in this kind of industry.
We interviewed Andy, and he became our first hire for production assistant.
And then it came to day one.
Day one of managing my first team member
This was three or four days after hiring my first employee. We were working in an office at that point because the client had actually given us one of their rooms within their office complex, which was really handy.
So, day one, first member of staff arrives – and I had absolutely no idea what to do. It was literally as they were walking through the door that I was thinking to myself, crikey – I have to give them work to do. And, oh no, I haven’t really thought about this. I thought I could just wing it – do it on the fly and we’d just figure it out. But it didn’t really happen that way.
Delegating work and letting go
For the next couple of weeks, I was still doing pretty much all the work myself, and still didn’t really have a plan for how I was going to manage this person.
I had to make time to train them and do the whole induction process. I know that now in hindsight. However, at the time – and I’m sure, if you’re in business, you’ve been there – it was just quicker for me to do the job at the time.
This was a big problem for me when hiring my first employee. I just couldn’t let go. I just couldn’t delegate that work to somebody else and trust that they could get the work done to the standards that I would expect. To be fair, they’d probably do a better job of it – but I still had this egotistical thing going on.
Setting foundations and paying dividends
If I just spent a bit of time telling this person how I want things to be done, that bit of dedication would pay dividends over and over again. But what I was doing, instead of just doing that and setting the foundations, was slowly, bit by bit, getting involved in the jobs that they were hired to do.
Over time, they eventually took on a little bit more, and a little bit more – and I was doing a little bit less, and a little bit less. This caused bottlenecks, and we just weren’t efficient enough.
Hire the best people, and let go
So, the takeaway from this experience of hiring my first employee is that, in those early days, my management and coaching skills were just terrible. I was just too possessive over the business.
Therefore, the massive lessons I learned from day one of hiring people were: you need to hire the best people. You need to trust that they’re going to do the work. Finally, you need to dedicate time to explain to them what you’re trying to achieve with a job or client, get them up to speed, then let go.
Not only did I now have the headache of the amount I was going to pay someone, but I now had to figure out how I was going to pay them.
Where did wage slips come from? What do I need to get someone a wage slip? How much am I paying them? How much do we pay to the government?
Eventually, I got in touch with accountants and we hired them to deal with all of that. However, that came with an added expense. Then, there was all this information I needed to get from the member of staff to supply to the accountants.
It was just a minefield of things I hadn’t anticipated when hiring my first employee. This isn’t even taking into account all my other responsibilities as an employer.
First of all, there’s business insurance. If your employee has an accident in your office, and you’ve not got the cover, you’re in deep doo-doo.
But it’s not just the reactive insurance cover. You need be proactive with this stuff: making sure the workplace is safe, healthy and a good environment for them to work. Along with that, there’s the working hours and holidays and all that jazz – and it just starts to stack up.
The next minute I knew, after hiring my first employee, I was now an HR person. I’m sure a lot of you know this takes up tons of time. I was so used to working on my own that I just wasn’t prepared to manage someone else. I would offer jobs just to keep them busy while I did the work that I’d actually hired them to do!
By the way, it’s taken me years to get away from this. It’s a natural thing to us entrepreneurs to just cling onto everything. We can’t just walk away and trust other people.
Monthly payroll and the cashflow dance
Even though we had this nice six-figure contract, there was also plenty of money going out in the other direction. Every month, I was counting down the days to payday and making sure we had enough money in the bank to pay wages.
Luckily, back in those days, we only had one wage to pay – which wasn’t huge amounts. However, fast forward to when we got to 13 staff – our peak – and it became a different kind of dance.
The one thing I learned for sure after hiring my first employee is that you cannot miss payroll. You don’t want to experience the knock-on effect of that mistake. When you’re talking about other people’s mortgages, rent bills, credit cards, family – it could be devastating.
Fast-forwarding to the present
In the years since that first hire, I’ve employed over 25 staff and learned loads about the incredibly complex world of recruitment.
I hope this first taster of my experiences in recruitment has helped some of you at the start of your own recruitment journeys. Letting go can be tough, but it’s 100% worth it in the end for the growth of your business.
If you’d like to talk to me directly about business or marketing, you can hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.