What you need to know before you hire your first employee.

If you’re thinking about hiring your first employee, you may be feeling so thinly stretched that you want to fill out paperwork and have someone start right away. That’s understandable, since adding staff to your small business can increase your ability to serve your customers. But if you’re not experienced at hiring and managing employees, it’s easy to make mistakes that can make it harder to serve as a consistent, fair boss.


Before you place your first classified ad for an employee, here’s what you’ll want to consider about the employer-employee relationship you’re about to embark on.

Know your responsibilities

What can you afford to pay an employee? What sort of breaks or holidays will you be obligated to provide?

The best time to learn about your obligations to your employees is before you hire your first one. Management expert Alison Green notes in her recent SCORE webinar, “Managing Time & Pay: Seven Lies Employees Will Tell You and the Truths That Can Protect Your Business,” that employees may come to you expecting time off, additional break time or even overtime pay in a wide variety of situations.

By familiarizing yourself with federal, state and local employment laws, you can be better prepared to develop consistent workplace policies for your employees.

Be prepared for laws to change. Some cities and states have considered raising the minimum wage. In New York State, Los Angeles and Seattle, for example, the law mandates that workers make at least $15 per hour.  It’s best to be prepared for what your market is offering, so you’re prepared for the investment of hiring employees. Green noted that there’s also a huge push right now to provide paid sick leave for employees in several states and cities.

Want to learn more about your expectations as an employer? Take Green’s SCORE webinar — it’s free.

Know your limitations

Don’t be blinded by big companies that offer gym memberships, breakfast bars and dry cleaning delivery alongside their traditional benefit packages. Not offering these perks doesn’t exclude your business from being a great place to work.

As you consider employment costs, consider the potential costs of providing health insurance, retirement savings plans or other benefits you’d like to offer. This is another time to research what your municipality requires in terms of benefits for hourly or salaried workers.

Even if you can’t provide much in the line of traditional benefits, you may be able to offer learning opportunities or occasional perks for your hard-working employees.

Provide a roadmap

Once you hire someone, you don’t get to toss out the job description and wing it. Use your carefully crafted job description as a guide to create a roadmap for your new employee. Determine benchmarks for employee progress, and explain how reaching those goals over time will help the business succeed.

By reviewing these benchmarks regularly, you can track both employee and business progress. Providing incentives for meeting these goals can be a way to motivate your employee, but don’t feel pressured to provide material rewards each time an employee reports a win. 


by Bridget Weston Pollack

bridget-weston-pollack_0Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.

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