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5 Tips for Hiring and Empowering Great Employees

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5 Tips for Hiring and Empowering Great Employees

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 14, 2013

Hiring employees is probably the most important decision any entrepreneur will ever make. But relinquishing some of the responsibility of your business to others is tough.

The key to getting it right is finding employees with the right value alignment and attitude (often easier said than done). Of course, you need to work at it too. Once you’ve built your team, learning to let go and empower employees is critical if you want focus on growing your business.

These steps are explored in one of SBA’s Learning Center videos–Hiring and Developing Employees—which features insights and tips from successful small business owners who’ve struggled with many of these issues and challenges themselves.

Here are five tips they suggest for growing your business through hiring and developing great employees:

Learn How to Let Go

As you start a business, you’ll likely be wearing many hats. But if your business is going to grow, then learning to let go is critical: “You are a leader for the business,” explains Eileen Spitalny, co-founder of Fairytale Brownies, a $10 million a year online and mail-order baking business headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. “In the beginning, we did bake the brownies; we did wash the pans. But you need to trust people, give them parameters, let them learn on their own, give them feedback and be there as their mentor, not over their shoulder. This is our philosophy.”

Both Spitalny and co-founder David Kravetz acknowledge that letting go didn’t come easy for them: “Looking back, we took too long to let go, and now we realize our team members are going to grow with the more responsibility we give them.” Fairytale Brownies encourages its employees to be proactive in their feedback, offering incentives such as movie tickets in return for suggestions on how they can better run the business.

Encourage Decision-Making Among Employees

Part of learning how to let go is looking for ways to empower your employees and give them decision-making authority. But how much trust can you instill in them without feeling the need to constantly monitor performance or simply “be there” for them?

After reading a self-help book on management skills, Fairytale Brownies were inspired to launch a “$100 Empowerment Policy.” This simple solution gives any team member the authority to spend up to $100 of company money to solve a customer problem without having to ask. “It’s taken a long time to get them to actually give up the money and a lot of times we’ll have to remind them,” explains David Kravetx, “Ninety-five percent of the problems can be solved with $100, whether it’s re-shipping a gift or refunding…and they don’t have to come to me to ask...it’s money well-spent for us.”

For more tips read: 7 Ways to Lead and Empower Your Team – Because Satisfied Employees Make for Happy Customers.

Hire the Right Values and Attitude and the Rest Will Take Care of Itself

For Steve Bell, owner of Pacific Cabinets, a multimillion dollar Washington state cabinet business, alignment of values and the right attitude is more important than experience. “If people have the same core values that we have—if they have a great attitude…if they have the ability to learn—then we can hire them and teach them anything they need to know in the business.”

For tips on finding a good match, read: 4 Interview Questions That Get to the Heart of a Candidate’s Potential.

Consider a Trial Employment Period

A new-hire trial period is another option that service-based businesses might consider to ensure a good match. Holly DiTallo, a trainer and co-owner at Scottsdale Education Center in Arizona, uses a two-week trial program to assess new educational contractors, “that’s just about long enough for us to be able to say come back another time or we don’t really think you’re the right fit.”

Fire Quickly if Things Aren’t Working Out

It goes without saying that your goal is to hire great people, but Fairytale Brownies—like many small business owners—learned some tough lessons with problem employees. “We would spend sometimes a year or longer living with an employee who we knew deep down wasn’t working out. We tried to change their personality and we learned that you can teach skills but if someone’s not working out, we will let them go a lot faster than we did at the beginning,” explains owner, David Kravetz.

What hiring challenges has your business encountered? How have you overcome these? Leave a comment below!

Don’t forget to visit the SBA Learning Center for more free self-paced online training courses, quick videos, web chats and more to help small business owners explore and learn about the many aspects of business ownership.

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About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Hiring employees are really difficult task and everyone looking some tips to do so. Here's a tips to Empower employees to perform better.
Thanks Caron for the great article, hiring employee is difficult task , I like the tips and ideas.
Encouraging decision making is incredibly important, as it can generate both creativity and faster action. It is also a part of giving up some "hats" which is a necessary part of growth as shown in the article.
Great article about ways to attract and keep great employees – one of the key challenges of every small business owner today. I would add one thing to your article and that’s the importance of Onboarding to the process of hiring and keeping good employees. Julian Scadden from Nexstar’s Training Team recently published a blog post on the importance of your onboarding process to the success of your new hire relationship. As Julian says, “I once heard the saying that, ‘An employee’s best day is their interview’, because he says all the right things and has on his best attitude. This could be true of your company as well. Onboarding is the secret to how to keep good employees once you hire them.” Combined with all of the tips you provide here, you have the makings for a great success recipe for hiring and retaining great employees!
I think the hardest of all is learning to let go. Its difficult to trust someone is doing a good job specially if its your first business. But ones you find the right people, its all downhill and growth happens.
Encouraging decision making has to be one of the hardest ones as at the start people will make mistakes but its important to let them learn
I went through all of your points that you have mentioned in your blog and found them a right way of hiring better employees. It would be too easy if good software is used for for the same purpose.
I agree completely. Encouraging employees to make difficult decisions is effective in learning what each of them is capable of. I also know from experience that hiring employees with similar values as yours is helpful in picking winners!
Thanks a lot for this article. It's very helpful and i'm not talking as an entrepreneur but as an employee. It allows me to understand my boss point of view... Thx !
I think there is almost a generic cast that most potential employees fit into when it comes to education, work experience, reference requirements but that really shows little on their blend in the real work environment. The most important value systems business needs to have in operation is liberal training and mentorship. Most people would be more than capable of completing the tasks at hand but you need to show support for the new worker during the emotionally taxing new hire experience. Once the employee feels supported 9 times out of 10 they will do what is in their power to perform to the best of their ability.

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