The 3 biggest mistakes we make when hiring for our businesses

We need people, great people, to help us build a business and move it forward. Those first few hires are essential to get right, but often we get it wrong – leading to both time and money wasted.  We often rush to fill the places because we’re growing too quickly or the thought of some kind of support from somewhere is better than none and we fall into ‘Bums on Seats’ mentality – ‘anyone, anywhere – HELP!’

In growing the business we want people to be as passionate as we are and often need them to do hybrid roles and juggle as many balls as we do. But ultimately, what we really want is for them to start taking some ‘weight’ from us so we can start to free up some of our time and head space to focus on what’s important for building and growing the business.  Yet, we can fall into the same mistakes each time…

Mistake No. 1: We focus on the wrong role first

  • We look at THEIR role not OUR own role first

In many cases, we’re not spending enough of our time focused on the key activities and right priorities that will make the most impact for the business. Yet, when things get busy we just need help – anyone, anyone out there! And rush around to get ‘bums on seats’!

If you’re clear on where you want the business to go, then it’s useful to map out what are the absolute essential things YOU (and only you) are able to do to get there.

Once you’ve decided on your top priorities, look at where you’re really spending your time…. Take a look at last month’s diary and highlight everything that was DIRECTLY related to those top 3 priorities. Or write down a list of  tasks you’ve been doing for the past month and see from there. If you’re spending a lot of time on activities that are not directly related to your main priorities and, or are repeating some of the same tasks over and over again…..then it’s time to ask yourself a couple of questions;

  • How does this task help me grow the business?
  • Do I really need to do this? (Will it help move the company forward significantly?)
  • Is there someone better placed (experience, knowledge, skill-set wise) to do these tasks?
  • Then make a list of all those tasks that you’d rather someone else do, that could be done better than you’re currently doing and allow you more time to focus on the key things that will take your business forward.

Mistake No. 2: We focus on the NOW, not the future

  • We look to find people to support now, not for where we want the business to be

When we’re in a state of panic and the company has expanded rapidly, you’ve just won a new contract or a major client, we can find ourselves running around like headless chickens! But the reality is we often have ambitions for the company to be in a much different place in a 1-3 year’s time.

For the company to be in that place, your role and focus may also need to change. For example; you may need to spend more time getting your ‘brand’ out there; speaking at events, meeting investors, R&D, securing new business; bigger or different type of clients.

To move into this position, the people you hire to begin with may need to take over some of the tasks you’ve always done in the business.  Think of where you want the business to be in the next 6-12 months and then think of the things YOU need to achieve to get there.

  • How do your priorities and role need to change?


Mistake No. 3: We jump to titles and job roles too early

  • “I need a PA/Marketing manager/Account Executive/Content manager”

As a small business, we generally need people to do hybrid roles – it’s not until we’re slightly bigger that we often need to make the shift from hybrid to specialists focused on specific areas within the business. In jumping to job roles and titles too early, we don’t breakdown and really analyse all the areas of support that we really need. It means we can also skip the experience, skills-set and personal qualities that are so important when starting to build a team around us.

If you’ve looked at where you’re currently spending the majority of your time and where you want or need to be, then the likelihood is you’ll have a list of activities that someone else could or should be doing. Instead of jumping straight to advertising a specific job role, take a look at these points first:-

  • List all the tasks you want someone else to do / or are finding yourself repeating and spending too much time on (admin, diary management and accounting are often top of the list here)
  • What experience and knowledge do you need someone to have had and in what type of environment?
  • Do they need to understand your industry?
  • What are the most important qualities you want in a person in your team?  If you’re just starting to build the team it may be essential that they’re a self-starter with heaps of initiative and enthusiasm. Or, maybe it’s just a keen eye for detail and positivity that are essential in your team

When interviewing your potential team member ask yourself – Is this person going to make my life easier? (Or better in some way!). If not, then the reality is they’re probably not right for the role and your company at this time.

And remember….if somebody isn’t working out in a small team you see it quickly. The best piece of advice we ever received when building the agency was – ‘Hire slowly, fire quickly’. Everyone needs to be giving 100% and more when you’re in the early stages of a business. So if they’re not pulling their weight, it generally means that someone else is having to. Ensure trial periods and probation periods are in place and keep talking throughout the trial period as if issues do arise then it’s best to make sure they’re addressed head on – for both parties.



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