As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good time to take steps to start your business in 2020. Like many fledgling entrepreneurs, you might be thinking that you’ll need to wear not just multiple hats, but all the hats, when you’re first starting out. It might seem easier to put off thinking about your first essential new hires.
What’s the problem with this approach?
No one is good at everything. You’re not going to be an incredible CFO/CEO/graphic designer/web developer. Try to do it all and you’ll spend a lot of time learning new skills (that you’ll eventually hire for) when you should be focusing on growing your business.
If you want to increase your chances of startup success, you should invest in the expertise of select professionals with specialized skills, even in the earlier stages of your company. That doesn’t mean you need to bring everyone on full time right away, but you should think seriously about contracting with experts—the essential hires you’re going to need to do the work that’s outside your skillset. Here are the types of people to consider if you’re starting a business next year.
A marketing maven
The internet is a very crowded place and it’s not easy to stand out, even if you’ve got the most exciting product or service in the world. You’ll need a sharp marketer to cut through the noise and produce real buzz about your company. Here’s what to look for in a marketing maven:
Find a storyteller
People make buying decisions for emotional reasons. It’s that simple. Hiring a marketer who knows how to tell a good story is key for getting a high ROI on your marketing spend.
Hire someone who understands Generation Z (or your target demographic)
We’re going through a period of shifting spending power. Boomers are getting older, Gen X and Millennials are making up the majority of the workforce, and Generation Z is beginning to wield some serious buying power.
To appeal to the digital natives born between 1996 and 2012, it’s important to hire a marketer who understands the trends and values that are influencing this generation’s spending habits. Gen Z is mobile and tech/savvy, frugal, concerned about social and environmental issues, and less focused on brand prestige than previous generations. Ignore this if your target market is definitely outside this demographic segment, but do keep in mind that the largest generational spend is shifting right now.
Choose someone with a proven track record
Numbers don’t lie. A candidate should be able to show you examples of how their marketing efforts positively affected their previous company’s bottom line. Marketing is an expense, so finding someone who can attach real success metrics to their campaigns will help you stay focused on what’s going to work best for your target market.
A mentor or partner who can share their power of experience
There’s a lot to be said for youthful energy, but early-stage small businesses and startups can leverage the value of experience as well. People who have been working in the business world for years have made mistakes (and learned from them) and gained valuable experience that they can contribute to a growing company.
If you’re early in your career and you’re less familiar with the day-to-day work of running a business, then hiring someone with experience in getting a startup off the ground can be invaluable. Traits and skills to look for:
Find a mentor or partner with direct experience with startups
Working at a startup—growing something from nothing—is decidedly different than working for an organization that’s been around for forty years. The right mentor or strategic thought partner for a startup is someone who has worked at more than one successful company and has learned the pitfalls and strategies for building a business from the ground up. It may not be helpful to hire someone with years of experience in business strategy in an established midsize or large company, because that takes a very different skillset.
SCORE offers a free business mentorship program that’s worth exploring if you’re at the stage where you’re more interested in bouncing ideas off someone with solid experience than hiring someone for a strategy-focused role.
The right attitude
A good mentor or partner passes along what they’ve learned in a helpful and constructive way, without taking over and doing all the work. When you’re looking for a trusted advisor, it’s important to choose someone with the right attitude: they’re willing to be a sounding board and share their experiences, but they have a good sense of personal boundaries and a generally positive attitude.
An accounting or finance pro for money matters
Money: it’s a top concern for all business owners at all stages. When you launch a startup, your capital is likely to be limited and you can’t afford to waste it. If you’re setting up your accounting tool for the first time, it can make sense to bring in a pro to help, even if you plan to manage bookkeeping internally at first.
The right (certified) qualifications
When it comes to money management, you need to hire someone with the right certifications and credentials, not just someone who claims to be good with numbers. There are many different types of accounting roles and it’s important to figure out what your company’s specific needs are before you start looking for an accounting professional.
Experience with small business accounting
Businesses of different sizes have different financial goals and needs. If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to hire someone who has done accounting specifically for small businesses and startups in the past. They’ll know all the tips and tricks necessary for helping you to make the most of your startup cash.
Growth-oriented strategic advising
When you’re facing a major spending decision, like whether to hire a new full-time employee, or whether it’s time to expand to a new location or buy a new piece of equipment, having assistance from a trained small business expert advisor can be helpful. A key piece of that type of decision is understanding your cash flow, and putting together reasonable forecasts. If you’re less confident in your skills in that area, or if you feel like you’re too busy to really crunch the numbers, an expert advisor can help.
An attorney to help you do things by the book
Nobody wants to think about legal trouble when they launch their business, but no founder can afford to ignore this very real potential pitfall of starting a company. There are lots of ways you can unintentionally open your company up to litigation, or even unfavorable agreements with investors. Once you’ve taken the initial legal steps to set up your business, you might want to consider a business attorney an essential hire, depending on the industry you’re in. Choose a lawyer who:
Understands the needs of small businesses and startups
When looking for legal counsel, you’ll want to find a lawyer who specializes in the needs of startups or small businesses. Attorneys work in many different specialties and you should always seek help from someone with experience working with your particular type of business—especially if you’re planning to seek investment and grow or scale quickly. Beyond that, look for someone with great reviews and recommendations—reach out to your network for a referral. Hopefully, you won’t need to call your lawyer too often!
These four essential hires will help you succeed
It can be scary to hire people, especially when you’re just starting out. After all, it’s a big expense and your employees or consultants will be at least partially depending on you for their income. However, it’s important to remember that it’s tough to grow without help. You need the right people to succeed.
If you don’t have the cash to hire someone full time, start by working with freelancers or consultants. By focusing on your essential hires right away, you’ll be helping to set your new business up for success. Just remember that it’s worth waiting for the right fit. In the meantime, you’ll be wearing a few different hats and making your company your own.