At first, it may seem more cost effective for the founders of a small business to wear as many hats as possible—and after all, they know the business best and have the passion to put in the late hours. But soon, this operation model is no longer tenable, and not having dedicated hires who are specialists in key business roles ends up hurting business. Before that day comes, owners should have in mind what kind of people they want to hire for the following positions.
A product manager knows not only the business’s product(s) inside and out, but also the competition inside and out. This enables them to position the product and its added value to customers. They’ll need to know how all products are manufactured, how they’re sold, how they get to the store (if there’s a brick and mortar store—if not, then how processing and distribution works from a website), and how to improve on any of these steps. They will be—or need to quickly become—a subject matter expert. Because of this, in the beginning, they may also start out as a salesman or help train the fledgling sales team.
With a well-thought-out short- and long-term marketing plan in hand, a marketing guru knows the current target market for the business and who to pursue as future customers. It’s crucial to identify these groups before investing in how to reach and convert customers through TV, radio, social media, podcasts, on-location promotional events, print marketing, and partnerships with other businesses. A marketing guru will be able to see a path to developing a community for your brand through all of this, while also carefully tracking metrics to see what’s working and what needs to change.
Once a business has a defined product line or service, it’s time to bring in the sales team, which may start as only one or two people. And that’s okay, as long as they are the right people for the business’s brand and culture. Sales reps might be making cold calls, working tradeshows, interacting with customers online, networking, or selling product from behind a counter in a brick and mortar store. Keeping all of this in mind, the first sales team hires should be highly motivated by commission or sales-based work. Sales—and sales of specific products—isn’t for everyone, so having the right team getting product into the right hands from the get-go cannot be over emphasized. Neither can the expense of high turnover in sales and having to hire and train new sales people.
Customer Support Representative
It is less expensive to keep current customers happy than it is to acquire new ones. And a key component of customer retention is a solid customer support strategy and someone to carry out that strategy, even if it isn’t a role in and of itself. Especially with the power of social media and other experience-sharing and customer review platforms at customers’ fingertips, a business needs to be ready to turn challenging customer interactions into successes for the business. Once a product is ready to be shipped and introduced to the world in large quantities, it’s time for this role to evolve from a clearly defined fraction of one employee’s role to a full-time position.
In the earliest days of forming a business, an accountant can help determine what type of company to form (LLC, corporation, etc.) and build the financial section of the business plan. From there, they will keep a close eye on the financial health of the business: sales, revenue, expenses, taxes. Their expertise should be used to design a financial safety net for the business and its early founders/investors, to make a plan for financial growth and how best to invest in the company in the future, and to create financial reports. If it can be done, it’s a good idea to find an accountant (or perhaps hire a second, part-time accountant) who can also organize financial data and prepare an action plan to grow and improve the business and its profit.
For some small businesses, it may be years before they are ready for a full-time HR hire. Until then, owners still need to be diligent and conscious about the importance of HR services and knowledge. Fortunately, these services can be outsourced to independent HR companies, virtual help and software, or temporary help. Again, this works best if the person taking on HR responsibilities, in addition to another role in the company, is given specific time and resources to dedicate to this role.
For each small business hire, it’s important to consider passion and a willingness to learn and take on new tasks in candidates, and not just a professional pedigree. With a clear plan to grow the company with additional, strategic hires, the more tenured hires will come along in good time.