Tim Bainton and Alex Planes

You’ve made it! You’ve built yourself a thriving business, and now it’s time to grow.

Every entrepreneur’s goal is to make more money while working less than they were at their old nine-to-five grind. At least, it should be — why start a business just to work harder and earn less, right? Every successful entrepreneur reaches a stage in their business’ growth where further progress is only possible through delegation. And delegating means hiring people.

The leap from employee to entrepreneur isn’t as difficult as many people think, especially since most entrepreneurs are simply operating sole proprietorships. There are more than 24 million sole proprietorships in the U.S., and they make up four out of five small businesses in the country. That still means there are millions of businesses with payrolls, and those small businesses have created nearly seven million jobs over the past five years. Your business about to become (or it already is) one of them.

But if you don’t hire wisely, you could hinder, reverse, or even implode your business’ growth. There’s an aphorism in Silicon Valley that says a great programmer is worth 10 average ones. We think that’s true of most roles, and it’s certainly true in the fitness industry, where there are often huge gaps between the earnings of the average trainer or coach and those of top professionals.

How do you hire wisely? How do you make sure your team has the right skills for their jobs? How do you keep everyone happy, loyal, and productive? There’s no one “best” method, but there are plenty of approaches to workforce management that can help you reduce your risks and improve the likelihood of long-term success.

Make sure you’re ready for a workforce

Every company that hires and pays employees must follow a certain set of rules based on the country, state, and city in which it does business.

If you haven’t already, make sure your business is set up with the IRS and any relevant state and local authorities. That includes getting an employer identification number, filing proper documentation for tax withholding and any other required payroll deductions, and establishing a system for tracking employee time and ensuring timely paycheck disbursement.

Many states and municipalities now allow you to file your paperwork online, but you’ll still need to find the relevant paperwork and/or websites based on where you’ve actually set up shop.

Time-tracking and payroll systems are hugely beneficial for both streamlining your payroll process and ensuring proper recordkeeping for tax and legal purposes. Some systems include both time-tracking and payroll functions, while others focus on one or the other. You should select tools that will serve your business’ unique needs in a cost-effective and efficient way. Some entrepreneurs feel comfortable calculating payroll and writing out everyone’s checks by hand, but delegating tedious tasks to software is no different than delegating to a person. Use your time wisely and let computers take care of the busywork! We certainly didn’t get involved in the fitness industry because we love accounting, and we doubt you did, either.

Put your business’ best foot forward

People apply to jobs for a variety of reasons, but great workers rarely apply to jobs at companies with bad reputations. Commit to presenting a great employer brand as well as a great customer brand, and you’ll find it much easier to convince people to work for you.

Everyone who can find your job postings can also find your business’ online presence. This includes sites like Glassdoor and Yelp as well as the company’s website and its social profiles. You can’t control what people say about you on review sites like Glassdoor and Yelp, but you can influence what kind of reviews you’ll get through your actions towards customers and employees.

If you’ve never had employees before, you’re not likely to have reviews on Yelp or LinkedIn, but you can build up a base of strong Yelp and other customer-centric reviews that should demonstrate your integrity and values to prospective hires. Try to get your best clients to leave glowing reviews of your business on any relevant review site, and make sure to register and develop at least a modest corporate LinkedIn profile to put your best foot forward with applicants.

Finding hidden gems

When seeking employees, consider the skills you want, the pay you can afford, and the work you’ll expect your new hires to perform. Take the time to write a detailed job post, and get feedback from anyone you can. You’ll need to make your company sound like a great place to work.

Your post should also highlight critical skills without demanding so specific a skillset that you rule out great candidates who haven’t put together the greatest resume just yet. It’s easy to overlook a great candidate by focusing on the skillset rather than the person. You can develop skills easily enough, but developing fundamental character traits like drive, creativity, empathy, and curiosity is not typically possible. A diamond in the rough can always be polished.

Many job postings won’t note compensation, but there’s nothing wrong with specifying this up front, particularly for entry-level, part-time, or on-call work.

When you conduct interviews, try to see how your candidates might behave in a work setting. This is especially important if you’re hiring public-facing employees like front desk staff or fitness trainers, who will be a key point of contact between your brand and your customers. Many health clubs ask prospective trainers to conduct “test sessions” with a manager or the boss, You might also ask applicants to create a brief tutorial-like video that emulates a specific type of training so you can see how they might interact with your clients.

Hiring, managing, and developing employees is a challenge for the best businesses, and we could never give more than the most basic overview in this article. But we hope you’ve learned enough to set down a path to success that includes your business and its soon-to-be-growing workforce.

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