About six years ago I found myself in a position that most business owners get to at one time or another. I call it the “I-think-I-can-do-everything-myself-even-though-I-know-I-can’t” phase. In other words, I was at the limits at what I could do and still grow my business. It was time to hire a key person to take some things off my plate.

My company was right around the $700,000 mark in gross sales and I just couldn’t keep up with all of the administrative duties as well as running the day-to-day operations of the business and being the main salesperson.

Something had to change, and I had to face the fact that it was going to be an investment of both time and money to make it happen. So using my extensive business talents and my knack for hand-selecting only the finest of talent, I hired an office manager. OK, so I’m stretching the truth some. It wasn’t really that easy, I just wish it had been.

Hiring a key player, whether it’s an office manager, operations manager, foreman or any other type of support staff, can be a daunting task. But, there are ways to make the process easier if you just take some time to think it through and assess your situation.

When I decided it was time to make a change in my company, I did several things that helped me make the right decision. And, to one degree or another, they worked. The first thing I did was to get some advice, so I met with a fellow business owner who is also a mentor and consultant to me. After discussing my day-to-day responsibilities with him and looking at how I was spending my time, it became clear that an office manager was what I needed.

Before I started looking I wanted to make sure I could afford to bring someone on full time. I didn’t want a part-time office person; that’s not a key player in my book. I wanted a full-time office manager, someone who would take full responsibility of the job.

5 Tips for Hiring a Key Player

  1. Determine your needs: Determine what your needs are and what can be taken off your plate so you can be more effective.
  2. Get some advice: Ask a trusted mentor or consultant to help you with the decision.
  3. Determine the cost: Look at industry benchmarks like the PLANET employee compensation report to see what other companies are paying for the position.
  4. Write a job description: Be specific and list everything that the job will consist of. (If you would like a copy of my office manager job description, send me an email at [email protected] and I will send one to you.)
  5. Ask around for referrals: Ask your friends and colleagues if they know of any candidates that might be interested in the position. Also running an ad on Craigslist has worked for my company.

I started the process by looking at some industry benchmarks to see what other companies paid their office managers. Then I went back to my yearly budget, and that’s when I got a little worried. Could I really afford to bring someone on and justify the expense?

That got me to do some serious thinking. Yes, an office manager would free up some of my time by taking over many of the office tasks I had been doing. Obviously, that would give me more time to sell. If I could just sell one or two more nice-sized landscape maintenance contracts I could pay for this position, I rationalized.

The next thing I did was to start writing a job description for the office manager position. I listed what tasks they would be responsible for, and what kind of experience was needed to do the job. I have learned over the years that people need to know what is expected of them. I didn’t want to hire someone only to find that they were expecting to just answer the phone and make coffee. I wanted to make sure that I could confidently give this person much more responsbility and that they could handle it.

So the decision was made, I would begin looking for an office manager. I knew through my research that I was making the right decision and that this person would be a great asset to my company and a key player. Now it was time to begin looking for someone to fill the position. Luckily I didn’t have to look too long because I remembered something I had heard at a seminar years before about getting good employees. The speaker had said to ask people you know if they might know anyone qualified and available for the position you’re looking to fill. He said that this is a good way to possibly avoid the dreaded newspaper ads and endless interviewing process.

At the time, a friend of mine who owned his own business had to lay off some of his office staff due to the economy. I asked him if he thought any of those people would be interested in coming to work for me, and he said he had one particular person that he thought would be great for the job. I interviewed her and hired her on the spot, and she is still with me to this day.

Now I know it’s not always that easy to hire someone, especially a key player, but it’s not impossible either. We all get to a point in our businesses where we have to face the fact that we need to bring someone on to fill a particular position that’s screaming to be filled. It doesn’t matter what the position is, the process is the same in determining your needs and the expectations of the person who will be fulfilling them.

The author is vice president of Southwest Landscape Management, Columbia Station, Ohio, and is a partner in Rak Consulting LLC. Contact him at [email protected].