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Monday, May 29, 2023

Taking a Big Step: Hiring the First Non-Family Member

Taking a Big Step: Hiring the First Non-Family Member FAMILY BUSINESS By JEFF WEISS, Contributing Reporter Often it’s one of the early indications of success. You’ve started your business with only yourself, your family, limited funds to draw from, ambition, and hopefully a good degree of luck. Yet after a few months, business has gradually begun to take off and you’re faced with a relatively pleasant obstacle: you need to find someone to help you shoulder the weight of all the additional business. All family business experts agree that communication and respect for others’ opinion is crucial to success. Naturally, when it comes time to hire that first non-family employee, the only way in which one can continue cultivating harmonious business and personal relationships, is by carefully ensuring that all family members involved in the business feel comfortable with the final decision of whom to hire. Before turning Infolink Screening Services Inc. into a profitable 80 plus employee business, Barry and Leslie Nadell originally started their background checking company with nothing more than a desk, phone, business cards, and a self-made tri-fold brochure. Originally setting up shop right in the middle of Barry’s insurance office, Infolink’s initial chances of survival depended upon maintaining an extremely low overhead. However, after four months the business had grown to the point where the Nadell’s realized that a non-family part-time employee would have to be added to help them balance the myriad tasks involved in running a profitable enterprise. “My wife and I talked about it and figured that we needed to hire somebody part time. Being in the business of background checks we wanted someone who had some sense of that kind of industry. At the same time, we couldn’t hire someone full time or pay them an expensive salary,” Barry Nadell reminisced. “We went to Cal State Northridge looking for a college student who had dealt with an aspect of human resources. We only had one person apply. We hired her and she started working part time after school. We gave her a lot of the administrative stuff that we didn’t want to do. She stayed with us after she graduated and has worked for us now for 10 years. She’s fantastic. We were very lucky.” But not all businesses wind up as fortunate as Infolink. According to family business expert, Professor Mark T. Green, director of the Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University, the secret to avoid squabbling during the hiring process is a careful division of responsibilities. Family members must tread lightly, as not to overstep their boundaries. “I think the starting point should be job descriptions for everyone. That’s what every professional business should have,” Green said. “The smallest businesses often need them because sometimes they need their boundaries and clarity established. It makes the processes of hiring the first employee that much easier.” The right pay Green also advised members of the family to make sure they research the proper amounts to pay a new employee. Without paying an adequate salary, one might get shortchanged by their new employee in terms of effort and consistency. “When people are paying themselves and new employees, compensation needs to be based on research not on made-up numbers that are either too small or too high. They often don’t know the going market rates,” Green said. “There are a lot of resources like trade associations and employer groups that can provide the organization that one needs. You should find a network of like businesses that you can call for advice. An external network is very important. Family businesses need to work on going outside of the family for help.” Stephanie Weier of Clearance Domain LLC relied upon close consultation with her business partner and husband, Lawrence Weier, to ensure a smooth hiring process. After a year of being in business, the Weiers were Clearance’s only two employees, when growth necessitated the hiring of an assistant. Like the aforementioned Nadell’s, the Weier’s found their choice by looking to their local college. “For the first year, I tried to do it all by myself. I found myself very overwhelmed, and even with my husband helping it wasn’t enough. I was feeling a lot of anxiety of having to do everything. I found myself in an angry mood a lot because I couldn’t do all I needed to get done,” Stephanie Weier said. “I found my first employee through the College of the Canyons job placement department. We hit it off immediately. When we discussed her, my husband agreed that she was the perfect person to hire. She started out for the first 2 years as my assistant and then she started doing research and clearances, the same work I was doing. Hopefully, she’ll stay with me until the day she dies.” To ensure that a business makes the correct choice, Weier advised that one should look for someone loyal and honest. Otherwise, you’ll have to look for another employee soon, which will sap even more of your precious time. “I looked for loyalty and the ability to be frank. I didn’t want someone who would misrepresent themselves. They needed to feel comfortable asking questions. I wanted someone who was willing to learn, someone who was social. I needed someone good on the telephone,” Weier said. It takes two visits usually for us to decide. We only hire after the second or third interview, but I usually know anyways after the first interview. I would defer to my husband though if he didn’t feel comfortable hiring someone but we’ve have usually agreed.”

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