Hiring For Small Businesses

Posted: May 14, 2010

Starting a small business in India? Learn as one entrepreneur in India discusses her challenges with hiring a team for a small business.

By Rashmi Vallabhajosyula

Rashmi Vallabhajosyula is the founder of Altius Consulting. Altius is a consulting practice that creates innovative marketing solutions for business challenges.

As a small business owner, one of my constant challenges has been recruiting, enabling and retaining talent. Since I run a service business that is completely dependent on the knowledge and skills of our employees, ensuring that we have great talent is indispensable. In this article I would like to share some of my experiences and learnings at Altius Consulting. I hope they prove useful to you.

Hiring for small business: The secret weapon

As an entrepreneur, you live and breathe your venture; your energy and enthusiasm are completely focused on it. You can see that it’s just a matter of time before the venture makes money and can pay top dollar for great talent. Meanwhile, your current focus may be on hiring smart people at reasonable prices. However, this is easier said than done.

The job market is quite hot, and talent commands a huge premium. Some fellow entrepreneurs have confessed to me a feeling of being stuck in a vicious cycle: you can’t hire great talent as they come with high price tags, and in the absence of great talent, breaking through to the next level is difficult.

But Entrepreneurs have a secret weapon that most corporates can’t touch:  Inspiration.

But Entrepreneurs have a secret weapon that most corporate’s can’t touch: Inspiration.  The dream that drives that you to work your butt off at your business is something invaluable. Share the inspiration in your interactions with stakeholders like investors, employees, on your website, in your public relations and marketing activity.  Lo and behold! You are no longer perceived as a cash- strapped startup, but as someone who is out to change the world. This shift in perception will make all the difference.

The right recruitment process for startups

A well defined recruitment process is something everyone believes in; unfortunately, most of us haven’t got around to writing it down yet. This could typically be the case for a lot of startups. The workload is immense, you need the guy to join last week, and you go ahead with hiring the person who seems like the best option, hoping it will all just ‘ work out’.  In some cases it does, while in some cases it does not.

One useful rule of thumb is to pay close attention to your chemistry with the potential employee. If they don’t seem to be someone who you want in your team right away, it would be best to ‘shop around’ a bit more. Also, while it is intuitive to hire people who you like, do remember that you need to put your business first.

Think Banyan, not bamboo

It’s a common story; you hire a smart person, train her, handhold her, show her the ropes and a day comes when she announces that she does not see where her career path lies and ‘maybe it’s time to move on’. The angst and frustration that you feel is something I completely empathize with. But, take a step back and think of a banyan tree. As it grows its branches throw out roots, and moving outwards, soon these roots help the banyan grow stronger. All the alumni from your company are still a part of your network. While they may not work with you, make sure they have enough reason to help you grow. They could make great talent scouts, business development referees and sounding boards. As friends of your company they can contribute a great deal while not costing you much more than the occasional coffee.

 All the alumni from your company are still a part of your network. While they may not work with you, make sure they have enough reason to help you grow.

Small business challenges: Building a pipeline

Talent is a constant requirement for all businesses in growth mode. Yet, few of us invest resources in building talent pipelines. Hiring people with the right mix of skills and attitude is rarely achieved by just gathering resumes from HR agencies. Setting up a pipeline requires us to answer the following questions:

–  What are the top 3 attributes I am seeking in all my potential employees  (for Altius, it is Attitude, Humour and Drive). Ideally, a pen portrait of the kind of person you are looking for helps.

– Where would I find this dream hire?

– What would make my company a ‘dream career destination’ for him?

– What policies & operations do I need to put in place to get this going?

– While this is not a comprehensive list of all the questions that you need clarity on, it’s a good place to begin.

The right mix of people can help take your small business to great heights. Design and implementation of forward looking hiring practices is your first step in making it happen.

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