“You don’t build a business.
You build people, and people build the business.”
Whether you are a sole-proprietor looking to grow your retail store, an investor looking for their next project, a CEO of a multi-million dollar conglomerate, or a small online business owner, you need people to help your business operate, grow, thrive, and survive. If you don’t want to hire and lead people, that’s fine too. But that is not running a business. Read more about that in a blog I wrote last year called 5 Things You Need to Decide Before You Become an Entrepreneur.
So, let’s assume you have your heart set on building a business. Great. It’s time to invest into people. But who do you hire first? I actually don’t think the answer to this is as cut and dry as one might think. It all depends on you – your natural skills and behavior, and your goals. Let’s say you are a master salesman, well, your first hire then shouldn’t be another sales guy. Hire someone who can fill in for your weaknesses (likely an administrative or operations professional). If you get lost in spreadsheets, love to organize and analyze data, and find enjoyment in creating detailed business plans, then it may behoove you to hire that sales guy!
Regardless of where you land, there are three key hires you will need to make in order to build a solid foundation, successfully operate your business, and ultimately grow. Now, one of these people may be you for a period of time. That’s fine, hire the other two first. However, eventually, if done right, with the right people, you will get to a point where you will have to replace yourself too. I was the sales guy for a while. That was the last piece of the puzzle that I hired for, but I hired administrative/operational and finance staff almost immediately once I knew I wanted to build a business.
Here are the three key hires you need for any business:
- Administrative/Operations Staff – Whatever sexy title de jour you choose to use – COO, Executive Assistant, Director of Administration & Operations, Chief Chaos Coordinator – this person will be your organizational and operational wizard. This hire is usually a Jack or Jill of all trades – they are essentially handling everything but sales, assuming you hire this person first. They may manage your personal life, creating systems and process, recruit and hire other team members, HR, bookkeeping, training staff, marketing, and more. As you leverage everything to this person, you are able to focus more on sales and eventually will reach a critical tipping point where this role begins to break off into more than one position. Usually financials (if you haven’t already leveraged that piece) will move first, followed quickly by the EA/PA portion of the position, so that your Jack/Jill of all trades becomes a full on Operations expert who will focus on running the business.
- Finance Staff – Is this a bookkeeper? Controller? CFO? Depends on the size of your business. Start small and allow the person to grow with your company, or top grade if necessary. Whatever level this person is at, their basic responsibilities remain the same, handling the financials – from budgets, to billing, to cash flow and expense management. This person will work incredibly close to your Operations staff member to handle all the day to day functions of the business, as well as help you plan for and manage growth. Having someone’s eyes on the money at all times is critical, especially in a high growth company where you have to play the money matrix game – constantly shifting where money goes so that it has the most impact and ROI. Without accurate and timely financial data, as a business owner, you could be left in the dark. The financials are critical for making smart, well-informed decisions that could either make or break your organization.
- Sales Staff – In my case, this was the last piece to be leveraged. Whoever you choose to lead the sales efforts of your organization must be able to do it better than you (and as the leader of the business, those are big shoes to fill). Sales drive the business, we know this. The more sales, the more clients and customers, the bigger profit, enables you to circle back and add additional operations staff and sales people and it becomes this beautiful, virtuous, cycle. I don’t care what business you are in, without sales, you don’t have a business. Which is why this is usually the last position that a leader will leverage. As this sales staff member grows, they will be responsible for sales goals, as well as for recruiting, hiring, and training additional sales people. Again, sales drives the business.
Operations. Money. Sales. The three pillars of any good business. Now, these are not your only three hires, but they are the first key hires of your business. As your company grows you can start to hire those “value add staff” like that Chief Fun Officer or office Massage Therapist. But find those three incredibly talent individuals to run each component first, then get out of their way, and watch your business grow.
Would you add any other critical team member to this list?