Hiring employees or independent contractors is an on-going challenge to many small -mid-size businesses. When, who, what can I afford – all come into play. These are among the most common mistakes I see.

1. What skills and experience do you really need?

Classically, smaller employers want folks to wear multiple hats. There are some people who love doing a variety of types of work each day. But the work combinations must make sense and be right for your organization’s needs.

  • There may be a terrific sales person who is happy to be doing administrative work half of the time – but I have not met such a combination of attributes.

Two part-timers or outsourcing each area to experts or some combination makes far more sense in situations where the work needs are very different.

2. I hate to do sales… and other tasks you dislike

I often see founders who really dislike marketing and sales work. I am not too thrilled with it myself. But in most cases, the best business developer for the business is the founder or top executive. Potential clients want to know you before they will consider hiring your firm.

This can be true of other critical business aspects as well. If your business is highly technical, clients want to see the that founder or CEO knows the technology.

And are you really ready to give up these responsibilities? Many aren’t when it comes down to doing so – and they micromanage and wonder why they are not getting their own time back or the results desired. Giving up critical parts of your job is often more difficult than you expect.

In these cases of things that you dislike doing , you may need to hire support. But you rarely can hire someone to do that critical thing that makes your business succeed until you are much larger.

3. I need a CxO

The third classic is to want to hire a senior-level person to show you are a growing success – and to get some strategic advice – but then want that person to also do basic level work. A CTO is not going to do programming. And hiring a CxO of any sort usually results in hiring several more layers as well.

So, you had a Manager of Accounting and one accounting clerk before and now have a CFO and 5 staff, but no more revenue. This way leads to significant problems. Too often with companies in the 50 – 150 employee range, I see fast growth stall or am called in to help restructure the organization and eliminate executive positions – and the people in them. Don’t go there.


If you are not sure how to structure a position, seek help. A consultant or specialist in the field can assist you in assessing your options quickly. If you do not want to hire help, you have several options:

  • Look at similar jobs on one of the major job boards, such as Indeed.com. What set of skills and requirements do they combine?
  • Many organizations put fairly detailed descriptions on their website employment section, check a few in your field.
  • Check to see if your trade association offers sample job descriptions you could tailor to your needs.
  • Ask other business owners and your vendors in that field for ideas.

Before you add a position, make a clear list of exactly what business necessity creates the need, all specific responsibilities that need to be fulfilled, and what increased revenue will result. What makes the most sense in terms of profitability? This will help you assess if you should hire or out-source the work and how you will need to change your job as well.

Interested in more help with hiring? Check out the Impact Hiring seminar series at the Alexandria SBDC coming up soon – http://alexandriasbdc.org/events/category/alexandria-sbdc-events/