Some entrepreneurs rush to hire too many, too soon and cannot support them. Others wait too long and do too much low margin work hindering their success.

The decision about whether and when to add staff is always a tough one. And these economic times make it more emotionally charged. Getting the help you need to grow and succeed is critical.

So how do you decide when or whether to hire?  Ask yourself:

Question 1: Is the need actually long-term and at the core of my business?

In this case, an employee may be the best bet. Example: if you are a small organization and can hire a person who will directly support current clients, you free some time to grow the business. A retailer may be able to add hours or serve customers faster and thus increase revenue with an extra hire.

Question 2: Would out-sourcing be worth considering?

Even with a core mission and long term need, you may want to consider other options. Some functions are smart to out-source due to the technical nature of the work or the need for constant personnel/equipment upgrading. IT services come immediately to mind. Others that are critical to your success may also be in this category. Functions may also be done by a contractor, such as a bookkeeper or a virtual assistant.

Question 3: Is the need for a specific period of time?

Such work, whether for a brief period or many months, may be most effectively done by hiring someone specifically as a short-term employee or via a temporary staffing agency.

Question 4: Does the work require expertise you don’t have?

Here you may consider hiring a management or specialized consultant or a freelancer, depending on the type of work, project demands, and time. Website design, social media or marketing planning are prime examples. My own work exemplifies this. Often I help a client solve a critical issue in human resources when they do not have the expertise – and teach them to maintain and manage a process I have created for their needs. Frequently I provide external advice and perspective on a sticky issue that is frustrating a CEO. I come, I assist, I depart – all without long term addition to their costs.

There are also times when a part-time employee, an interim or project executive, or borrowing expertise from a vendor or a firm you know well are options worth considering.

When you do decide that the needs of your business are such that a regular full-time or part-time employee is the best bet, be smart. Look at the challenges the position is designed to address and keep the work focused. Seek out the best possible employee for your needs. Don’t throw time and money away going for the cheapest either, go for the best possible match to your culture and most effective for your needs.