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Level Up Your Business

This one action will level up your business instantly – and how to do it properly
By Colin Gordon and Ben Owens

As someone who suffers from organizational problems and consistency in a classic work environment, it took me until I hired someone to really look at my business as a business, beyond just me executing on my ideas.

For someone like me, the #1 thing you can do to take your startup from the idea stage to the small business stage is to hire someone.

That’s it.

This one “little” thing is actually a very large move that will catalyze a momentous amount of growth. As soon as I hired someone, everything triggered differently in my brain. It was no longer an option to fall short. I felt like I had a new sense of responsibility and I became focused on what I needed to do to become a better organization.

When you hire someone, you’ll start delegating, explaining your processes in a way that personally reinforces your actions and accountability.

When you hire someone, you’ll plan differently, bringing more vision and scope to your efforts.

When you hire someone, you’ll start documenting how you do what you do (Standard Operating Procedures/SOPs), increasing efficiency and identifying opportunities for growth.

When you hire someone, it’s no longer all in your head and accessible only to you; It makes it tangible. You now have someone who relies on you as much as you rely on them. It also allows you to focus your energies on what you’re best at doing.

Once I’d hired someone, I felt more obliged to myself to do everything that would be best for the business. I felt that I had to become more professional-business minded. It felt like a larger project; the whole feel of everything felt bigger having just one employee.

THESE 6 STEPS WILL HELP YOU MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR FIRST HIRE

Hiring your first employee will push you to level-up in more ways than can be mentioned here. But hiring the right employee will catalyze growth 10x faster. Hiring the wrong employee will still teach you a handful of lessons and level-up your company, but you’ll eventually have to rehire, something that slows down the growth process. “Hire slow, fire fast.”

In order to maximize the benefit of hiring, it’s important to do it right.

How to Make the Right First Hire:

Start with something familiar. 

For me (Ben), I turned to my alma matter because I was looking for someone with similar training (journalism). For me (Colin), I hired through a sort of “qualified nepotism”—someone who was qualified AND I already knew could deliver. Start somewhere that has already qualified the candidate (I.e. their familiarity with writing, the industry, the plant, etc.). This will alleviate time spent screening unqualified applicants. Often, starting at your own origin point will be a great place to begin.

Three traits that are absolute for a qualified candidate:

  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Energy

“If you don't have the first, the other two will kill you,” Buffett has famously said.

Prepare to onboard them. 

This will be foreign if you’ve never hired or been on-boarded. The idea is to set a plan to gradually familiarize them with what they will be doing. In a startup, this often is a bit of everything, but you can’t overwhelm them with it all at once. Have a plan for what you would like to accomplish in the first month or two, and then set a road map for tackling these projects, accounting for extra time it will take to have someone new in the driver’s seat. 

Create a list of expectations and responsibilities. 

Clarify what you can expect of them and what they can expect of you. This is especially useful when you identify BOTH your and your new hire’s responsibilities. Identify who is in charge (or will be in charge) of what. This will offer a reference point when either party gets overwhelmed or confused as to who should be doing what.


Create SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). 

Once you know who is doing what, begin to explicate the processes involved. When you take on or teach a new task, make sure it is documented so that you have that as a resource for the future. Often, tasks are new and there’s an ongoing learning process. This will save you time on repeated questions, and establish an operating manual for your business as it grows and you have to hire more people. 

Communicate. 

Make an effort to learn how each other communicates. Then, make sure to communicate expectations, wants, needs, criticism, etc. in a way that both parties understand what needs to be done. It is important to continue the evolution of those relationships within the company. 

Be patient. 

Be patient. Read that again. Be patient. Not only with your new hire but with yourself. When things break or halt, examine why, not just what happened. Were expectations communicated? Were they reasonable expectations? Is extra instruction or training required? The most important thing is to not act with haste. Time tends to be kind to the handling of tough situations. Whenever possible, utilize your new hire to optimize your return on time and energy spent. Anything that can be delegated, should be.

Hiring isn’t easy, even if you have the perfect candidate. Using these recommendations, you’re more likely to experience a tangible evolution of your business and its identity.