One of the biggest problems that we have consistently crossed swords with alongside our company growth has been work output. Today we talk about how we combatted this and how Ryan, 90 days on, has impacted our team and growth.
The past 10 months have far surpassed many of my expectations. But one of our greatest achievements was hiring our first full-time employee in house. For the past three years we have worked on many projects with many different types of freelancers. But this marks a big step forward in our original goal, to become a full-fledged software house.
I would say your first employee is always one of the hardest and biggest steps (and risks) in business growth. Not only does it change the way you work, from a flexible one-man band, to a structured business with people relying on you. But it also requires you to take the biggest leap forward in terms of paperwork, legal considerations and financial commitment.
When it's the right time
I knew it was the right time to hire because my 40 hour workload was already full. I was turning down clients because, even with outside freelance support, I was reaching full capacity. Both mentally and physically, I needed a way to split my work load before I went crazy.
I knew exactly what I wanted the potential candidate to do, it was a replication of my skill-set, to double our work output. Hiring freelancers and contractors are fine, but they don't solve a growth problem, they only keep things moving on, not moving up. I needed somebody who could take a lot of responsibility and could understand and share my vision, passion, energy and flexibility to get the job done.
Ultimately, I believe it's the right time to hire if:
- You know their role will generate more money than it costs to pay them.
- Your workload is full, and you're turning down clients.
- From a tax and legal point of view, you can move forward with the growth.
- You can easily define a job description of what they'll be doing.
People say hiring your first employee can make or break your company. Which I agree, but hiring some employee is usually always better than hiring no employee. If you don't take the risks then there will be no reward, and to me, it was the right time to take the jump.
The hiring process
With that in mind, I set out to recruit a candidate. My company benefited from having years of experience with a diverse range of freelancers from the projects we've worked on. This took out the unknown risk factor because I already knew the capabilities and quirks of most of the candidates applying.
The journey I ended up going through:
- Realising I needed to make my first hire.
- Speaking to people to help me understand and shape what I was looking for.
- Determine what salary to give them, that I could afford to still make a profit on, based on the projected growth of the company.
- Finding a way to reach candidates, through job boards and word of mouth.
- Shortlisting and interviewing candidates.
- Sorting out my Employer's liability insurance, health and safety policy and company guidelines.
- Sorting out the accountancy and legal paperwork (PAYE, ERN setup, Contract of employment, offer letter, pension, etc).
- Deciding the right candidate over multiple interviews, working out their P45, notice period, start date and creating a structured flow of work for them.
- Purchasing a top-spec Macbook Pro, sort out a desk for them to work at, and subscribing them to 11 different SaaS/membership accounts for them to work with/on.
- Training them up and introducing them to my workflow, introducing them to clients and building up work for them to get started on.
After all that... they are finally part of the team. Not a quick process for the first hire. But now that I've experienced this the first time, the next hire will only take about 20% of the time.
I was surprised about the amount of steps required to get a candidate hired and setup. But I was also surprised how useful an accountant can be in this process, mine took care of all of the governmental paperwork and setup for me. In fact she even pointed me to the Employment Allowance which allowed me to save up to £3,000 off my Employer's National Insurance bill - essentially paying for herself, again.
90 days on
Out of all the candidates that we took an interest in, around 13 people in all, Ryan (as seen pictured) was hired. With the the help of KEEP+, I managed to secure 50% of his salary in funding each month, for the first three months. This was a great help in easing into this commitment - because it's a big jump to go from paying £0, to a full-time permanent employee.
So what have we achieved in the past three months? Once Ryan was caught up with how we work, he soon started to tackle the backlog of outstanding work and commitments that I hadn't had time to wrap up. On the 1st of June, we have 3 projects in active development, and 8 projects kind-of almost done. By the 1st of September we had 5 projects in active development and we had managed to wrap up 7 of the 8 projects that were almost done.
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, felt evermore relevant to nearly all of our projects. That being, 80% of the projected code takes 20% of the time, and the pesky last 20% of work seems to take 80% of the time. Ryan helped wrap up the last 20% of our outstanding projects with me. This allowed me to focus on improving our workflows and getting back on top of things - exactly what I had hoped hiring an employee would do.
Our biggest achievement throughout this whole process was getting the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of Skipper My Boat up and running. Skipper My Boat is a global boat rental platform which Ryan helped to build the MVP with me. This allowed us to get funding to build the full scale system into the final quarter of 2018.
Hiring an employee worked out great for us, it was never really a maybe, it was always a required hurdle on the road map to the future. Identifying the risks and steps needed to mitigate those risk helped me speed up and achieve my goal of doubling our workload.
I definitely now believe your first hire can make or break a start up, and luckily (or through careful planning and the right timing) it worked out really well for us.
Now we're stronger and busier than ever, and actively recruiting for our third full time member to be apart of our growing team. Being in a start up is fun and flexible, especially when you have like minded people around you to join the journey.
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