Hiring Your First Employee for Your Home Staging Company (Part I)
A stager on the west coast, Kathryn (not the stager’s real name), asks:
I’m looking for some support from a fellow stager and came across your site
I am busting at the seams with business and am planning on hiring another designer. How do I do this? Lol
I mean, what would I pay them? Do they do bids?
I’m so lost as to what duties to give them and how to compensate.
I’ve been doing it on my own for years so I don’t know how to accommodate my growth.
I own my own inventory, truck, warehouse. Making about 500k annually and I’m doing it all on my own! Help please
Hiring can be very tricky. I know this first hand because I’ve crashed and burnt SO many times. I’ve had some great success in hiring, where the assistant dealt with anything I gave her and just problem solved the heck out of things, no worries. (It’s AMAZING how far awesome assistants can help you push the business forward.) And there had been complete disasters where I had this one assistant who went home with the client’s brother at their party. (Yeah, awkward.) I also had an assistant who did awful things that made me ugly cried at my parents’ house.
As much as I’d like to avoid hiring anyone ever again, unfortunately, business is a team sport. You need people to grow the business, and you can’t do it alone forever. You simply just can’t. There’s no way you can continue to grow the business without help.
The GOOD news is that I’ve found with practice, hiring gets less and less painful. Having a clear picture of who you want is going to be extremely helpful in this process. Doing your due diligence and research will help you to be more comfortable and prepared in hiring.
This particular email is very short and sweet, but there’re some big questions here. At first glance, I see:
- Who to hire?
- What should they do?
- Should you hire an employee or a freelancer?
- How much should I pay this new person?
- How will I manage this person?
Because there’s so much to cover, I’m turning this blog post into a series. I’ll go over these questions one by one in this hiring series and share my personal experiences and researches. Hopefully, they’ll be helpful to you. Feel free to post your comments & Qs in the Comment section below.
WHO to hire?
In this particular email, Kathryn asks about hiring a designer. One of the biggest hiring mistakes I’ve made repeatedly was that I always hired too quickly.
I had so much to do; I felt so overwhelmed, I just wanted a warm body in the studio to help me bang out stuff dump all the sh*t on and have her to figure them out.
The more important question you should be asking yourself is: How do I envision my business to grow?
Depending on your business goal, is it more important to hire another designer in your business? Or is it more important to have an assistant in to take things off your plate and help you focus on what you do best so you can double, triple the business this year?
Remember, hiring someone shouldn’t be just to put out the immediate fires in your business. Hiring someone costs money, and it costs a lot of money if you’re in California (think worker’s comp + health insurance + bump in liability insurance + payroll costs and both Federal & State TAXES).
Remember: A great employee that’s the right fit for your business will help you grow healthily and efficiently. Whoever you hire should make not only his/hers salary plus a healthy amount of ROI.
So back to the question: how do you envision your business in the long term and mid term?
I’m a stickler on this point because I believe that you need to have your end goals in mind for your business to know how to drive yourself there. Having the vision for the future of your business will help you determine the business structure you’ll need to support your business goals.
Questions like these are important to determine your business structures and how and who to hire to support your future growth:
- “Do you want a big team?”
- “Or do you want a small team with less than five people in the office?”
- “How much volume are you looking to do a year?”
- “How many jobs do you want to do a week?”
- “What’s an ideal work day for you?”
- “How do you want to run your business?”
- “What’s the end goal(s) of your business?”
These will all affect how the job chart looks like and how you run the business. You have a warehouse, truck, and inventory. So some of the positions you may need in the future is an office manager, or an operations manager, or a project manager, or a business manager? Before you make the decision of these big-ticket hires, will an assistant or a designer be more appropriate?
WHAT should the new hire do?
What do you need help right now the most? Is it to give you breathing room so you can be more focused on all the projects? Do you feel overwhelmed because you’re disorganized on the backend, or you need more people to help you with estimates? Or do you need help on site? Get a clear idea of what you want the new hire to do.
Also, what do you need to outsource/delegate? It may make sense to do a brain dump on a piece of paper, writing down a list of ideas and tasks that you’d like to outsource to an assistant or designer.
These can be like things you don’t want to do. Maybe it’s packing and picking up props, keeping paperwork organized, visiting clients, writing up estimates, etc. whatever you feel like it’ll be the least productive use of your time, you should outsource. This brain dump process will help you write the job descriptions.
For example, I find that in the past few years, I get less and less patient with customer services type of stuff, especially onboarding new clients. I just get annoyed by having to answer the same questions over and over. Stuff like “When are you going to get here?” “Do you take payment at escrow?” “What kind of furniture do you use?” “How long will staging take?” “What happens when it doesn’t sell in 30 days?” “Can I be there to watch you stage?” “If you do great work, I’ll send you more clients, so can I get a discount on this one?” The list goes on.
It’s not productive nor efficient at all for the business for me to be handling client bookings, paperwork and doing the “dance,” i.e. pricing & contract negotiations. So I hired an assistant to handle all the booking, invoicing and paperwork related to clients.
I set up a workflow, templates and a list of guidelines for my assistant and she executes them all. I’m freed up from the tasks that burn me out so I can focus on the creative part of the business, which is what I love and thrive to do.
What I’ve found that the common mistakes most stagers make when it comes to hiring the first employee is that once that employee is hired, most people dump everything in their to-do list onto this new hire. That can overwhelm the employee very quickly. Then you get frustrated because you feel like the employee is not living up to how amazing you had imagined having an assistant was going to be.
So take out a piece of paper, write down a list of things that you need help with. Then take a look at your sheet. All these items that you want to accomplish may take more than one position.
Things like styling help on job sites is a very different skill set than someone who works in the office organizing paperwork. So once you brain dump everything, go through item by item and figure out who you need to hire.
PHOTO CREDIT: NICK KARVOUNIS