Dear Aunty B,
I’ve started a small business in a niche of a niche and I have hired my first staff member.
The staff member is basically also a friend that I’ve worked with for many years. She knows my passion for my business and thinks it’s great what I’m doing. I trust her work 100% as I’ve worked with her for many years.
The biggest challenge currently is that I can’t find staff even though I’ve advertised a number of times. The staff I need are highly specialised and in-demand. I am competing with big players in this niche and I can’t offer the security (as yet) that the big players can offer.
I am about to hire my next staff member, who is a friend as well. Again he is a co-worker – I am still working part-time – and I know he is great at what he is doing.
Whilst I want to also hire staff who are not my friends, at this stage my business has very little to no credibility even though I have managed to get some traction now!
I believe the staff I have hired are right and good for the business as they share similar values, which is extremely important in this niche. However, how do I go about not mixing friendship and business and how do I find more staff, especially since I can’t compete with the big players as yet?
Dear Starting out,
It sounds like you are at an exciting point in the life of your new business and you sure are lucky to have friends who share the same passion for your business.
But I think you need to be careful. I asked Sue-Ellen Watts, managing director of wattsnext HR, for her expert advice and she agrees with me. While it might be working out now, this could go downhill, both for your business and for your friendships.
Watts suggests making sure you have clear position descriptions and expectations established with all the people you hire from day one.
“Regardless of the friendship and trust, you are planning to grow a business, so start acting like one now. It is so much easier to do this at the start rather than trying to implement structure later when everyone has already become comfortable,” she says.
I understand it can be hard to compete against bigger, more established businesses when looking for new employees but remember, you do have something they don’t.
“This is where you pull out your vision, mission and values,” as Watts puts it.
“Most people want meaning in their work. They don’t want to be just a link in the chain who is not appreciated or sometimes even noticed. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Network with others in your field and don’t be afraid to talk openly about your passion and the risk you are taking. Invite any potential candidates to join you on the journey and don’t be afraid to tell them why you know it will be a success.