In any growing business, there comes a time when you may need to add employees. And because so much rides on the people you choose to sell your products or carry out your services, we’ve put together these six steps for building a dream team, as described in our recent New York Times Best Seller, Worth Every Penny.
1. Look for passion.
When you’re looking for employees, look for the most passionate people—the ones who love what you do. Keep your eye out for these people everywhere, even as you’re doing business: some of your best customers may also make great team members. Your passionate customers already know what you sell, how you sell it, and how you serve your clients. Plus, they’ve already shown an interest in you, your products, or your services and come to you without needing a discount. The fact that they gush about you on their own time makes them the best possible salesperson for your business! Look for an opportunity to work more closely with them—on a project, volunteering together, etc.—to see if they might be a good fit for your business. You can train people for skills, but you can’t train people to have glowing personalities and a love of people and relationships. You can’t train them to be driven. And you surely can’t train them to care about your business as much as you do. Seek the passion first, and deal with all the other stuff later.
2. Don’t skimp.
Because you’re not discounting your prices, you have higher margins and can afford better people. Pay for better people and you’ll get better results. Don’t base your employees’ wages on how much the discounters pay their people. If you hire the right people and treat them well, they will enable you to do more business. And, boutique businesses have the advantage of employing team members who care about more than a dollar figure. There are people who could be fabulous employees but maybe don’t want the commitment or structure of a corporate gig. They want to be in a cool environment with cool people. The want a flexible schedule so they can travel or work only while their kids are at school. They want special benefits of your offerings—on the photography, clothing, spa services, etc.
3. Don’t settle.
Choosing employees for your boutique business is much like choosing a mate: good enough just isn’t going to be good enough. The right team members will excite you. They should embody your brand—from how they look and dress to how they speak and communicate with those around them. Good enough—even if you plan for just a temporary position—can do mega-damage to your brand, and can be emotionally exhausting. Ask your friends and clients for their opinions, too. Get references. See if those around you are as excited as you are about the prospective employee.
4. Filter, filter, filter.
All of these points might be sending chills up your spine and making you anxious about hiring the right people. That’s good. You should be just as terrified about hiring the wrong people as you are excited about hiring the right people. Filter your potential employees well before you offer anyone the job. And as you filter, realize that you need to look at all their skills—not just those that relate to the job function. Boutique businesses need well-rounded, passionate employees. An employee at a boutique IT firm might write fantastic code, but can he provide service to customers with your standards of interaction in mind? Can he write grammatically correct emails to business accounts? Think through all the touch points your employees will have with your customers. And when someone gets through your filter, hold on to her for dear life!
5. Treat them like family.
Just as you treat your good clients like friends, you should treat your boutique employees like family. A close, supportive working environment allows you to customize your rules to the needs of each member of your team. Employees with children may need flex time. If the job involves intense focus, the employee may need quiet and may work more efficiently from home. Look for opportunities to support each of your teammates in their personal growth. Whether they want to take time off to go to college or train for a marathon, as a boutique business, you have the flexibility to help your employees achieve their goals and make them happier while they’re at work.
6. Become a role model or mentor.
Becoming a mentor will not only help someone who is just starting out; it will also teach you a lot about yourself, your business, your brand, and the world. Plus, when you are open to this, people who are passionate about what you do will enter your life. In fact, Sarah and I’s business partnership started with a one-day job-shadowing experience many years ago. I sent a note to Sarah at the ad agency we both worked at while I was a college sophomore. I asked to shadow Sarah for the day. I am now Sarah’s business partner at The Joy of Marketing. Andria, the production manager at Sarah Petty Photography, also originally started as a job-shadower and worked her way into an intern position. She then worked her way into a full-time position. Sarah didn’t go into either of those situations looking for employees—much less a business partner. But, when those special people pop into your life, look for opportunities to work with them more closely.
With the right team behind you, you know with confidence that your customers are being cared for, and that they’ll continue to invest in your superior products, services, and experience. And you might even free up a good deal of your own time, giving you room to come up with ways to make your growing boutique business even more incredible.
Tell us, how did you find your employees? What worked for you and what didn’t in finding the right fit for your team?