Last week Ann Dwyer told me she’s been thinking about what the last 18 to 24 months have done to the mental state of entrepreneurs and whether or not they’ll be hiring again soon. Small businesses are such an important driver of employment and economic growth . . . it’s up to us to create jobs and deplete unemployment.
But it seems for more than a year, the mantra is “doing more with less.” Fewer employees, tighter budgets, less credit, lower customer spending . . . even less motivation, in some cases. In fact, Vistage International did a survey last quarter and asked its members if they are doing more with less. Eighty-six percent said yes.
That’s exactly what we’re doing.
We had to do two rounds of layoffs last year. Worst experience of my life. Granted, I get too emotionally attached to employees, which is a huge weakness, but regardless of being attached, it isn’t fun to have to let people go. And now I’m gun shy. We’re using freelancers to do tactical work. The idea of hiring another full-time person (which we haven’t done in nearly two years) scares me to death. I over-think and over-analyze hiring decisions. Two years ago, if it felt right in my gut, I hired, sometimes, on the spot. Now I bring in people close to me to help me with the interview process, to get a full 360-degree view. And I look for reasons that the hire couldn’t possibly work . . . until I’ve talked myself out of it.
Overkill, I think. It’s time to begin creating jobs again, and I’m a much more savvy business leader because of the past 19 months.
We are taking everything into account as we look at job creation. We’re looking at profitability of existing employees, average days of positive cash flow, debt-to-equity ratios, capacity as compared to realization, and we’re hiring extremely slowly. In most cases, we’re hiring only from our freelancer pool because we have experience working with them, know which seat on the bus they are best suited for, and know what kinds of results they drive.
It’s still a game of chance. You don’t know how anyone will fit into your culture or if they are going to make the transition from freelance to full-time (having a boss) well. But I’d like to think the very systematic approach means more thought, fewer mistakes, and less risk. Hopefully it will also mean no more layoffs!
What signs are you looking for to reassure yourself that now is the right time to hire again?