I cannot count the number of times I’ve had conversations with small business owners about the need to expand to cope with demand, but not being able to because of the potential issues surrounding employees.
This post is not an employee-bashing exercise at all, but it will be a frank discussion about the pitfalls of hiring employees when things turn bad (which they don’t often, but when they do it really rocks your business). I’ve been running The Transcription People (TTP) for 14 years and I’ve had a full complement of employees on many occasions during that time, most of whom were valuable and loyal. It is the small, but vocal, percentage (isn’t it always?) that I am writing about here.
Every business experiences growing pains. There comes a time when you have to bite the bullet and hire someone if you want to grow beyond a certain point. You might weigh up the costs of hiring a VA or contractors, or employing an in-house employee might be more your style. Whatever your preference, having someone to help can take the pressure off so you can get on with the business of running the business, rather than working in it.
A small business owner who hires an employee is taking a chance, even if they hold interviews and do reference checks. Before you’ve even established a working relationship with an employee there are a few sticky hurdles to get over. We all know how easy it is to tell a few white lies to make yourself look better at interview, and who’s to say the referee isn’t a friend happy to wax lyrical about the applicant (or a current employer who sees the chance to get rid of them quickly and easily)?
Once you’ve found who you think is the right person for your role, then comes the financial investment of bringing them up to speed. I’ve employed some employees through a trainee scheme and this can help with some of the training time and costs, but not every employee comes with a training scheme. Ultimately, whether it is through time or money, or both, the onus is on the small business to make a financial investment for training, wages, superannuation and other sundry expenses. You make this investment on the proviso that the employee will help you grow the business, but sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way.
Sometimes the employee you have invested in finds something better and moves on. Sometimes they get sick of doing the job and leave you in the lurch. Sometimes they stuff up on their job because they haven’t been managing their role effectively and it costs the business (which really means the small business owner, right?) money to fix. Sometimes the employee turns out to be the wrong fit for your business and you have to let them go. And sometimes everything just goes wrong for an unknown reason. In all of these situations the onus is on the small business owner to make everything right, or repercussions/penalties can apply.
It just doesn’t seem fair that so much falls to the small business owner who is just trying to make everything work. They’re not a bad boss; they’re not perfect, but they do everything they should, and they are not always rewarded for that.
Where’s the silver lining for the small business owner when things go bad with an employee? Do you just chalk it up as ‘experience’?