How to Hire a Team That’s Built to Last


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Among the many challenges related to managing a small business, hiring a quality team of employees is one of the most important. Done correctly, it will pay you back in peace of mind, confidence in your team and fewer barriers to profits.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: People can make or break a workplace. Many of us have horror stories of working for a company or in a team that, at best, simply didn’t mesh, and at worst, led to dysfunctional fracturing. But now you’re on the other side of that equation — as a new small business owner, you are responsible for hiring that winning team … but how?

Back in May of 2011, I found myself in this very position. We opened a significant amusement attraction business in South Carolina. The location was fantastic, the build was complete and all we had to do was hire some staff members to work the space. Easy enough, right? Wrong. There was drama, stress and high turnover in the staff, which led to worker’s compensation claims and poor customer reviews. Ultimately, we were able to determine that most of the issues stemmed from the general manager of the business who had poor business practices which permeated through to the staff. We had to start from scratch.

During this process, I learned a great deal about hiring not simply the best employees, but the right employees. Below I’ve compiled a list of tips and best practices for hiring a team that’s built to last.

Related: A Healthy Approach to Hiring That Actually Works

1. Setting standards

Consider your hiring standards. If you find yourself using ambiguous terms like “strong worker” or “some retail experience” when outlining the type of people you wish to hire, then it’s time to get a little more specific.

In our example above, rather than reinventing the wheel, we turned to companies that are renowned for their customer service standards. Using Disney as a model, we created an avatar of the ideal employee. We didn’t focus on technical skills or applicable experience, but instead on personality traits. From this, we developed a grading scale and did assessments.

Based on these results, we were able to set a hiring standard. The best part? We were able to accomplish this by paying the same amount we had paid for the previous dysfunctional team. Online reviews of the business went way up, the internal turmoil and headaches were alleviated, and it became a much easier business to manage.

**Note: Small business owners often harbor anxieties about high staffing costs — assuming that to get the best employees, you’ll have to pay the highest rates. However, rather than working from a scarcity mindset that operates from a place of fear, shift to an abundance mindset that embraces the idea that great employees are out there and you are capable of finding them.

2. Cross-functional employees

If you’re approaching business ownership as a former corporate America employee and have a robust resume of experience, then you may be the most experienced person at your new company. As a small business owner, you’re what I like to call the OEO: Only Executive Officer. This role is the epitome of “cross-functional.” But this dynamic adaptability shouldn’t stop with you. It is precisely the trait to seek out in your new hires.

From our example above, in addition to personality assessments, we discovered that a major shift in training was paramount. Rather than hiring employees who could only work within their predetermined role, we focused on hiring adaptable people who could work in multi-functional roles.

This is effective for a variety of reasons. The obvious benefit is that employees can work/cover shifts in roles that are tangential to their own without a great deal of additional training. Moreover, we found that by encouraging cross-functional training, we empowered employees to be adaptable and confident in their roles.

Related: 10 Ways to Create a Startup Dream Team

3. Tech tools for the win

It wasn’t so long ago that time-consuming daily tasks were a vital part of business ownership. Modern tech advances have been a game changer for small business owners, particularly when it comes to ongoing maintenance tasks like scheduling shifts, managing hours and payroll. Now, all of these functions can be easily managed with the right tech tools. This benefits you as the business owner as well as your employees who can easily access this information in real-time. Win-win.

In my fitness franchise business, we used a mobile scheduling app that was terrific and basically eliminated almost an entire person’s job: scheduling. The app notified everyone of their schedule, allowed them to offer and swap shifts without manager approval as long as it was the same level position, and overall made the business more flexible for employees and easier to manage for our managers.

Ultimately, there is no surefire way to guarantee that you’ll never have to deal with difficult employees or a team that just doesn’t fit. While certain business models may offer guidance or a framework that makes hiring a streamlined process — like franchising for example — effective hiring is paramount to the success of your business. By setting hiring standards, seeking cross-functioning employees and embracing effective managerial tech tools, you’ll be in a far better position to support your new business with a talented team of employees.

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