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    Growing pains: How to hire your first employee

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    By Emma Clark

    So, you’ve built your business up from scratch and poured your own blood, sweat, tears and cash into it. You have more work than you can handle and are in need of help. If you’re a one-lady operation, bringing someone else into your business can be daunting, especially if you are used to doing everything yourself.

    The first step is realising that you can’t do it all, which can be both a revelation and a frustration. The second step? Relinquishing control and realising that hiring the right person will save you time, money and stress!

    My husband and I run furniture studio Gratton Design and employ an apprentice furniture maker and a permanent full-time cabinetmaker, plus we use a range of contractors and specialist makers for different projects. Having staff isn’t always smooth sailing, but it has also allowed us to take on bigger and better projects, have more flexibility so we can spend more time with our kids, and do less of the boring tasks that we don’t want to do.

    Having said that, hiring your first employee is best delayed for as long as possible. Make sure that your business is viable and profitable enough to regularly pay another wage. More staff means higher overheads, so staying solo until you cannot handle it any longer makes good business sense. And consider that employees cost more than just the salary: you might need new equipment like computers or software, fuel or travel expenses, plus Work Cover, superannuation and taxes.

    When you have more work than you can handle and are ready for some help, it’s time to recruit some backup. Hiring your first employee sounds a lot more daunting than it really is. The most important part is finding the right person!

    Write it down
    The first step is to decide exactly what the job is, and get it all down on paper. You might need someone for several hours a week to pack boxes, or you might need a full time manager to oversee operations. Writing out a list of all the tasks and areas of responsibility helps to clarify the role in your mind, and makes it easier when assessing potential candidates. Depending on the role, they might be able to work flexibly, from home or irregular hours, so it’s important to consider all these options when writing a job description.

    You also need to decide how much to pay them. There may be an award covering minimum wages and conditions, which you can find more information about at the Fair Work Ombudsman site. The site also have plenty of helpful info about record-keeping requirements, calculating leave and fair work practices, as well as superannuation, Work Cover and tax requirements.

    Contracts, lest it need be said, are also very important so that both you and your new hire are aware of each parties’ responsibilities and rights. A professional contract lawyer should be able to help you with this, and getting the right advice in this area will probably be the most important investment in the step towards business growth with your new employee.

    Who to hire
    Depending on the type of work you do, you might want to look at hiring a contractor, intern, student or apprentice, rather than a salaried employee. This can avoid a lot of the administrative burden and many workers are used to being employed this way. It also means you can hire people for specific projects and don’t need to worry about having enough ongoing work to sustain two wages. If you are looking for a student or intern, try calling a few schools or universities that specialise in your area of expertise. Design students are often happy to get a foot in the door and may be able to work flexibly (and cheaply!) in return for the mentoring and experience you will be offering. You can find contractors by asking around, or through online resources (such as the Circle Database!).

    Finding your person
    Look at your immediate network for any candidates first. Often, if you like someone and get on well with them, that can be more important than their skill set or past experience. Many skills can be learnt on the job, and depending on the role, you might be spending a lot of time with this person; so choosing someone who is fun to work with can bring fresh energy and new ideas into your business. And try not to settle for the best of a bad bunch. It’s worth waiting for the right person than settling for the most available person.

    If you’ve exhausted your friends and friends-of-friends for potential staffers, then use more traditional means. Putting a ‘We’re hiring!’ post on your social media platforms gets the word out to would-be employees who already know and like your product or service. An advertisement on Seek costs $255 and can lead to loads of offers, as can job ads on industry-specific sites such as The Loop, Artshub and Pedestrian.tv. We’ve even successfully hired people from the Work Wanted section of Gumtree.

    Making it official
    Once you’ve had a few interviews and have found The One, you better make it official. Get all their information, including tax and superannuation details, and file it away somewhere safe. The ATO requires you to keep all wages and timesheet information for seven years, so keep all your employee information together and readily accessible. It is also worth setting up your payroll system ahead of time – we use Xero for all our bookkeeping and payroll and LOVE it (well, as much as one can love bookkeeping software). Once your tax requirements are complete, you can get used to life with a wingman or winglady.

    The hiring part is just the tip of the iceberg. Managing people – even if it’s just an intern for a few hours a week – is a whole other topic that probably fills several shelves of your local bookshop. But after an initial settling-in period, you will soon find out how you work together and the best ways to manage your productivity and get the most out of your employee.

    As business owners, we have found delegation one of the hardest things to learn. When you are used to doing everything yourself, letting go and trusting someone else is hard work! It’s important to remember that just because someone doesn’t do it the same way as you, doesn’t mean their way is worse (it may actually be better)!

    {Image via Pexels}

    Emma Clark is an interior designer, writer and podcaster who, alongside her husband Lee, runs Gratton Design, a timber furniture and architectural joinery company. She blogs occasionally at Worst House Best Street and posts endless photos of her sons on Instagram at @emmamakesthings.


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Customer journey – do you know yours?

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    By Jes Egan

    A few months ago I wrote a post about service design, and today I’d like to talk about an aspect of business that is closely related: looking at the journey a customer or potential customer might take with your business and ensuring you understand how to possibly maximise this space. Not necessarily just for sales, but to build your customer relationships and to ensure that they see and engage with your business at certain stages.

    When I first started working at a big ad agency in London I was told: “It is cheaper to keep an existing customer than to gain a new one”. To this day I still believe this to be true. There are many ways to keep a customer happy, but one way that I believe can work across many different disciplines, industries, products or services is to understand and get to know your customer and their journey that they take with your business. I’ve heard people say to think of it as your customer’s story, imagine they’re telling you the process they went through from when they thought they might need your product/service to how they made the purchasing decision and what happened after they paid.

    Putting together a customer journey map will help you find opportunities that are possibly not being used to their full potential. Simply, it is putting your customer at the forefront of your business, making you think about their needs and requirements in relation to what you do.

    So, where do you start?

    Getting to know your customer
    How well do you know your customer? This is a question that we should all ask of our businesses. Sometimes we think we know more than we actually do and it can be detrimental. We have to be careful of making decisions about our customers based on assumptions. However, there are many ways to get to know them through a little bit of research: look at your existing sales data, web analytics, social media followers – these are examples of things you can quickly review to find insights about your customers, e.g. where they’re coming from, what they’re searching, or what they are saying.

    Anecdotal research, such as surveys or asking questions of your followers on social media, are great ways to get a quick understanding about who they are if you don’t have access to other data. If you are lucky enough to have staff working for you, remember to ask them about their insights into your customer base too, as your ‘front line staff’ can be a wonderful source of information.

    Customer journey map
    A customer journey map is a map of the process people go through when they start to look for what they want, how they get to the purchasing decision, then how they deal with your company and what happens after that. Usually a customer journey map is best understood when displayed as an infographic or a table. There are many different ways to map the process (and there are even online tools to do this if you’re willing to pay for them).
    The following five channel phases are a guide and a possible place to start creating a customer journey map for your business.

    Awareness / Research
    How someone becomes aware of a product or service is something personally I find really interesting. Do they see it on someone they admire, in a shop or in advertising? Once aware of a product or service, it’s not uncommon for a customer to use the internet, Instagram, Google, Pinterest along with the traditional channels of stores, markets, etc to do additional research before they get to ‘buy’.

    The question for you, is: Is your business visible in all the places where people might look to find you or start researching for your type of product or service?

    Evaluation
    This is when a potential customer evaluates like companies / products, and weighs the the pros and cons between them (and this isn’t always about price), before making a decision on which one they like or are more suited to. This might be achieved by be looking at comparison sites or just reviewing a range in a shop.

    Question for you: How do you compare to your competitors in this phase? Is your USP (unique selling point) standing out in this stage? How can you stand out enough to ensure that you are the one they chose?

    Purchase
    The next phase is to understand where and how your customers make their purchase. Is it purely an online purchase? Is it through a third party supplier? Or do they buy it from you at a market, trade show etc? Another pertinent question here is also: where do they want to purchase? Not everyone wants to buy online, and often this decision depends on your audience and what you’re selling. Be where customers expect you to be, as well as want you to be.

    Delivery
    Think about how your customer receives what you are offering. Is it a face to face sale? Are you delivering a service personally or via online/telephone communication? Do they pick the item up or does it get delivered (by post or courier?). Question for you: Where is your customer when they get to this touch point, and what is the experience they are receiving?

    After sales / post purchase
    Once your customer has the product or service, consider if there is any further communication between you and your customer. Do they purchase again? Do they post pictures/comments on social media of their purchase, if they’re happy or not? Do they come back into the shop or write a review? Think about how you can be more involved in the process, become aware of their thoughts and reactions, and importantly, how do you respond to positive and negative feedback?

    Here is an example of how I might start to put together a customer journey map. Once I’ve got all the information I’ll then get it nicely put together in a digital version.

    Customer Journey Map

    Getting to know your customer’s journey is really important, there are many insights you can take from it if you get the information right. By acknowledging and mapping it you can see where you might be able to make tweaks or changes and help build a better customer relationship. It goes back to what I said at the beginning: It’s cheaper to keep an existing one then gain a new one, so it’s a great investment in your creative business to get to know the ones you’ve got.

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ and a very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist, a university lecturer, and small business owner who can creatively be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips | Comments Off