Hello BP. Liz back this week to talk about the scary and exciting step of hiring your first team member. I can remember when we took that plunge about 5 years ago. At the time, we had 30 units, which was a mix between commercial, small multi-family and single family homes. I was working with my husband full time in our business.
One of my roles in our business was to do the bookkeeping. As we shared during our podcast interview last September, this was not one of my “strong suits.” Honestly, this was not something I enjoyed doing nor was I good at it. We did not think we were at the point we could afford to hire someone; however, we knew we needed to do something differently. We also knew that our vision was to build a business beyond just the two of us.
Luckily, in addition to our real estate investing work, I have been a consultant helping small and large businesses with the “people side” of their business (everything from hiring new employees to team development to leadership training). So we decided to take the plunge back in 2010 to hire our first person (part time)! Below was the process we used. I hope it helps!
The 10 Step Guide for Hiring Your Very First Team Member
1. Figure Out the Financials
My husband and I knew we wanted to hire a part time bookkeeper, but we were not sure how we were going to make that work financially. Instead of saying, “We can’t afford someone,” we instead asked ourselves, “HOW can we afford someone?”
We sat down and took a deep dive on our financials, and found some cash flow that we could put towards paying someone. It was tight, but we also were firm believers that this person was going to free us both up and therefore give us time to grow our business. That is exactly what happened. By taking duties off both of our plates, it allowed us to ramp up our business and bring in more deals.
2. Clarify Duties and Responsibilities of Role
Before you go on a wild goose chase looking for someone, it is imperative to become very clear (on paper) what duties and responsibilities you want this person to accomplish. If it has been just you doing everything or you and a partner, chances are you might not have much written down.
That is why it is really important to write down what would be ideal for this person to do. Be specific as possible. That way, everyone is clear on duties, and there is no grey area. I also want to add that we started with a part time bookkeeper that has turned into a full time position over the years. However, it was so helpful to start with someone part time. It allowed both of us to grow together.
3. Clarify the Behavioral Requirements of the Role
This is probably one of the most important yet OVERLOOKED steps of this process. Most of you are probably saying, “What is a behavioral requirement? I just want someone who is NOT crazy!” Yes, we all want sane people working for us. However, when I say “behavioral requirements,” I am referring to the personality traits you are looking for. Most people stop at duties and responsibilities. However, if you want to build a diverse and powerful team, you need different personality styles on your team as well.
For example, for a bookkeeper, we wanted to find someone who was very detail oriented. That is a pretty obvious one. Additionally, both my husband and I can tend to be “too nice” at times. So when it came to rent collection early on in our investing career, we would buy the “excuses” and feel bad for people and their situations. However, we were very clear that we wanted our part time bookkeeper to be a bit tougher than us. We looked for a more task focused person who did not take things personally.
4. Write a Job Description
The purpose of the job description is that you are clear on everything this person should be responsible for BEFORE searching for someone. It does not have to be fancy or anything — just something simple that pulls together what you brainstormed during the #2 step.
The other critical part of a job description is to include what “results” this person is responsible for. Not just activities and duties, but actually results. For example, in the rental business, keeping delinquencies under 10% is an effective result to add to our bookkeeper’s job description.
5. Write a Job Ad
The job ad is what you will use to post to online services to market the job opportunity. You can also send the job ad to your contacts and people in your network. The key to writing a powerful job ad is to be unique and different.
If you Google “sample job ads,” there are quite a bit of boring job ads out there. You want to include the behavioral requirements you are looking for, the duties, and also a bit about you/your company. People want to join a team that is growing and exciting to be a part of.
6. Reach Out to the Appropriate People
You can search for people through many online outlets. We have found some great people on Craigslist. I would also encourage you to use your network. When you are out there networking with others, share what you are up to and how you are looking for someone. You never know who knows who!
I would also encourage you to meet with your local Department of Labor office. They have some great programs to help folks get back to work. They also have some programs that actually reimburse you (the employer) if you employ someone unemployed. We have had terrific success with our local Department of Labor!
7. Phone Screen
Once you begin to get interest, you want to reach out to candidates via phone. Come up with a few questions that are “musts” for the role, and ask them via a phone screen. If they pass the phone screen, then you set them up for an interview. I would highly recommend this step; that way, you don’t waste your time with in person interviews with people who would not have passed the first step!
The most important thing to do in an interview is to be PREPARED. You want to have a set of questions ahead of time that you can ask this person. You have to be careful about what questions you can ask, etc. However, we tend to ask questions not just about their experience, but also about their goals and aspirations.
You also want to ask questions about their past experience. Anyone can tell you that they can do a job. However, it is more important to ask about past experience and behavior; that way, you can assess whether the person will be a good fit for the job, as well as for working with you personally.
9. Choose the Right Person
I would highly recommend that you have someone else that you trust and respect also interview the person. You might really “like them,” but they may not be able to do the job well for you. It is helpful to have another sounding board in this process. Also, don’t forget to ask for and call their references.
10. Train, Train, Train
So you hired your first team member! Congratulations! Now comes the hard part — you have to train them and set them up for success. You want to train them in everything that they are going to be held responsible for.
Unfortunately, most small businesses that hire their first person throw them in on the first day. Don’t do this. You must train them and support them as they become familiar with you and your business. When training someone, it is helpful to review things verbally with people, but is also helpful to have a lot of what they are doing and resources for them to use in writing. Everyone learns differently.
I hope this step by step process was helpful to all the investors that are looking to take the “plunge” to hire your first person to join your team.
For those investors who have hired your first person, what am I missing?
Let me know in the comments section below!
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.