Are You Ready To Hire?

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO and Co-Founder of Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting
Photo Credit: Hayes Photography

Deciding when and who to hire to grow your business can be challenging. While it can open up new opportunities, it also involves more expense and possible risks. There’s no magic formula for determining when you should hire, but there are certain milestones and proven practices that can help guide you.

One of those milestones is revenue. A good rule of thumb is that for every $250,000 of annual sales, you need to add an employee. This will ensure you can keep up the increased pace of new projects without compromising customer service. In addition, the more your firm grows, the more you, as the principal, need to devote more time to strategy, management and business development. You need others to attend to carrying out projects and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the firm.

What is the right mix of personnel? Typically, a boutique firm is comprised of four staff: you, another designer, an assistant designer, and a bookkeeper/business manager. This configuration allows you to delegate routine design and client management tasks, as well as increasing the number of the firm’s billable hours. Depending on the volume of business coming into the firm, you may want to consider hiring an assistant designer and/or bookkeeper/business manager on a part-time basis initially, then increase their hours until you reach the revenue level to sustain them full-time. As a stepping stone, firms of one or two people sometimes bring on an intern to serve in an assistant designer role while the firm transitions to more permanent staff.

Other factors you want to consider when adding staff are your client base, your business cycle, and external factors that could affect your business in the short term. Do you have enough steady work and a viable pool of potential clients to support additional staff? When is your demand highest? You want to bring on staff prior to your peak periods so they have time to become familiar with their duties and the firm’s operation. Talk with your business partners and other local sources to find out whether they are aware of any trends or impending changes to the economy that could impact your business. You don’t want to invest in hiring staff and then have to let them go within the next year or so.

Adding staff is a natural evolution for most businesses. Although some designers prefer to be a shop of one and outsource bookkeeping and additional design help when needed, with careful planning and attentive management, the synergy your firm can achieve with a full-time, regular staff can boost your growth exponentially.

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