Hiring for Small Businesses – Know the Order of Operations

Hiring for small businesses can be a little like Algebra.

Remember how many people were absolutely in LOVE with math in school?

Especially those arithmetic expressions that looked like this? 4 + 2×3 = (4 + 2)×3 = 6×3 = 18?

Let’s not even get into Calculus.

Some people loved it, absolutely ate it up. But MOST people can’t hack basic math, much less advanced math.

Running, and hiring for small businesses is very similar in a couple of ways.

First… Most people can’t hack it. It’s over their heads. Oddly… that doesn’t keep many people for thinking they can go into business for themselves and succeed.

Second… Running a successful business is absolutely all about the order of operations. If you do it wrong… things just don’t add up correctly.

For any business, but this is especially crucial to smaller businesses, it is important that you identify the most important position for being filled within your company and fill that role first.

The position should not be one of convenience as much as productivity directly related to the bottom line.

Let me give an example.

Joe owns a small business and he’s making some money. Joe feel like he’s not getting enough “stuff” done and also feels like he’s not making as much money as he could be.

Joe needs help… and Joe is fairly average… not immediately strategic about all moves. Like the average Joe he is, he translates “I need help” to “I need an assistant”.

Joe gets a little excited about the thought of hiring his own assistant. It makes him feel important and he thinks he can sluff off his work to some lackey and now… he’s going to get some serious business done.

The problem is… the things Joe isn’t getting done isn’t just minor administrative duties. Joe has a few problems.

First – he’s bleeding money and doesn’t know it because he doesn’t track his finances properly. He just knows he should have more money than he does. (Sound familiar?)

Second – He’s got a new product to launch that he knows his buyers will eat up based on the market but he’s had it for a year and not done anything with it because he doesn’t like doing the technical work to get it live and able to take orders. It took him two years just to get his first product to market.

Third – People are starting to ask for refunds just because they can’t get an answer fast enough when they have a question, and they don’t feel supported.

All of these things are affecting Joe’s bottom line.

Joe is not addressing any of them… and it’s not because taking the time to schedule appointments or pay bills or do research (typical assistant work) is keeping him from it.

Joe doesn’t do this stuff because he doesn’t like it and he can’t convince himself to do it.

But, if Joe DOESN’T fix these issues, 1) he will never grow far and 2) he could be out of business soon.

As soon as Joe hires an assistant… He’s immediately losing hundreds to thousands of dollars a month. Is that investment going to return to him immediately? In time or money? Is that going to improve his bottom line? Is it going to give him back enough time that his earning potential will balance out?

What might be a better first hire?

Joe doesn’t even know where all of his money is going. The first thing he needs to do is correct that. Hiring a financial assistant or CPA to manage his books should quickly point out what the next hire should be for Joe.

Yes, it will also show him some money management flaws he has and help him to get a better grasp on finances, helping direct him in other ways…

But it will also help Joe decide if what he should be doing next is hiring a customer support person or someone to get his product to market.



The CPA loves that math that most of us hate. (Weirdo. God Blessed Weirdo.)

You need to know how much you make and how much you spend and more importantly… how much you are bleeding. I define bleeding is money that’s going out without giving you a return on your investment or too little of a return to justify the expense. Nearly every single client I’ve ever consulted with (possibly with ONE exception in 14 years) has had a standing expense on their books that was not earning them a return.

Getting a very clear grasp of numbers is an absolute eye opener. Sometimes people find out how easily they could improve their bottom line by just making a few cuts to wasteful areas. Other times they realize they aren’t putting enough money into something… for example, running ads that are performing well.

As you can see… hiring someone to help you get clear on your numbers can have a much more profound impact on your revenue, and almost instantly.

It is not likely that hiring a personal assistant will have as quick and powerful of an impact if this area is being neglected.

In business, a numbers expert is definitely one of the positions you want to fill first when you’re building your team.

From there, you want to hire the roles that will make the most significant impact on your bottom line in the shortest amount of time. This person might be the head of sales and marketing, fulfilment, IT or customer service… often in that order.

When you’ve taken the time to learn your numbers first, you know what you can afford for each of these positions and you should have a good idea as to what kind of ROI you can get when you fill the role.

Do everything you can to make sure that your return on investment when hiring can happen within the first month. To that end, part of your onboarding process should include very clear expectations of roles and responsibilities, outline their decision making power and autonomy clearly, and make the targets very clear that they need to hit and by what date.

It’s not your job to tell them HOW to hit the target unless you can’t afford an expert and are going to train someone. In which case, (and it happens in startups with low initial capital) make sure you give them the outline and resources to learn what they need to learn.

Of course the “where” and “how”  of hiring for small businesses is a process all of it’s own. There’s a book that provides some fantastic insight into this process called “Topgrading” which (although bulky, in my opinion) can be extremely helpful to someone who’s new to the hiring process.

In my experience, I find that small business owners will take action on the least amount of information they feel necessary to make a decision. While learning HOW to hire is absolutely an important step towards success… It’s the second step.

First, you have to figure out WHO to hire. What’s the most important role to fill first? What does your company need most?

Even a bad hire can offer some relief and if nothing else, necessary experience for growth.

But hiring someone who cannot earn the company back their investment could put you out of business before you ever get a chance to grow past two people.

That’s the danger of being out of order.






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