Six years ago, financial advisor Patrick Nicol thought about hiring an assistant.
“I found the paperwork and compliance and administrative side of things was taking up too much of my time,” says Nicol, owner of Nicol and Associates in Ottawa. Despite this, Nicol sat on the idea for more than a year.
“I had to get comfortable with the decision to part with $40,000 or $50,000 of my own money, which pushed that timeline further along than it should have.”
For the sole proprietor, money is often one of the biggest hurdles, says Ottawa business consultant Angela Sutcliffe.
“When people are thinking of the dollars it’s going to cost to hire staff, it’s very easy to think ‘I can’t quite afford it yet,’ ” explains Sutcliffe. “But if you could get to your 100% financial target alone, you wouldn’t need to hire staff. It can take a while to get to that ‘aha’ moment, where you realize it’s going to take money out of your pocket in the short term while you duplicate yourself, but the return on that investment is so incredibly high and usually [materializes] within a very short period.”
Before hiring, Sutcliffe recommends business owners know which tasks they are going to delegate, and account for time needed for training and transition.
“Think of it as, ‘if I weren’t doing this, how long would it take me to make enough money to pay someone else to do it?’ ” says Sutcliffe. “How many people could I touch in a day, how many more events could I attend, how many more appointments could I schedule?”
In Calgary, Luene La Fountaine remembers the fear and also the necessity of hiring help when she started Health Risk Services, Inc. 11 years ago. After spending nearly two decades working as an employee and manager in the insurance industry, La Fountaine was a single mother with two kids and a mortgage when she decided to launch her own specialty health insurance company. She now has three full-time staff members and two full-time contractors on retainer for IT and accounting.
But La Fountaine has made mistakes.
“In the early stages of growing my company, I felt I needed a sales person in British Columbia, but it became evident within a year that the value I was spending was not coming back in new client dollars,” says La Fountaine, who eventually let the sales rep go.
Business owners should take their time, she advises.
“I’m looking for someone to work in partnership with me, and I see this as a two-to-three year process,” she says. “The person has to fit with me, and have the same capability of building relationships with clients.”
With the right employees in place, however, new employees can be a boon for business.
Five years on, Nicol now has an administrative assistant, oversees two associates and is looking to hire a junior associate full-time. Business has grown by 50% in the last four years alone.
“The first hire was the biggest transition, but having the admin assistant freed up so much of my time that she made her annual salary within a month,” says Nicol. “I thought, ‘I should have done this a long time ago.’”
Stages of Business Maturity
Source: Angela Sutcliffe