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Nuts & Bolts: Accidental boss

Rachel Carter

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: What's all the hammering for? Oh, that's right. It's our series, Nuts & Bolts. We've been talking to listeners about the joys and frustrations of building a small business. Let's say your business is doing well, so well that you need help. Time to put out that a€œHelp Wanteda€ sign. Here's Steve Tripoli from our Entrepreneurship Desk:


Rachel Carter: So this is the master suite, with a retreat.

Rocky housing market and all, Rachel Carter loves being a real estate developer on California's north coast. She handles the design work and enjoys showing her properties.

Carter: I do all the surfaces and the color choices, that's really my love.

When things got busy for Carter and her partners, everyday office work started piling up. Hiring help solved that problem and let Carter do more of what she likes.

But she admits that having someone else depend on her success adds a layer of unease.

Carter: I felt like all of a sudden I had the responsibility of another person who was paying their bills from my paycheck.

In Alpharetta, Ga., listener Thomas Orf says adding staff adds other discomforts. His business cleans and repairs fine rugs, and he's had lots of frustration trying to get workers who do it to his standards. That's not the only problem.

Thomas Orf: Just the amount of paperwork and Social Security tax filings, and employees complicate that.

But a third listener says you've gotta remember the up-side of employees.

Mike Van Horn's small business in San Rafael, Calif. is advising small businesses. He says you can't grow without employees first of all. And they free you for vacations, the chores you enjoy and even illness.

The problem Van Horn often sees is business owners blind-sided by a need for workers who then make bad decisions.

Mike Van Horn: They hire somebody without adequately considering whether it's a good fit. And then it's not a good fit, and so then they think, "Oh, I can't get any good help so it just proves that I should have stayed doing it all myself to start with."

But that doesn't get you anywhere. So Van Horn says many entrepreneurs should get help getting help. Hire someone who knows how to find workers who fit your business.

Our Babson College small-business expert, Patti Greene, says entrepreneurs have three things to consider when contemplating that first hire. She says Rachel Carter the real estate developer's right -- the first thing is that being responsible for someone else's livelihood really does change things.

Patti Greene: Secondly, how you use your own time has to change, because this person has to learn about you, about the venture. And the third is it's a different skill-set.

Different because you have to weigh other people's needs, how their talents fit in, and because now you have to constantly remember that your own example is setting the company's culture.

Thomas Orf in Georgia says that even in his specialty business handling fine rugs, he's learned to loosen his grip on workers.

Orf: I think the expectations are what need to be controlled in hiring people. You cannot expect them to be little Mini-Me's. That's ultimately the bottom line.

So that fateful first-hiring decision comes down to two common decisions for business owners: know what you want out of your business and figure out how to get there -- preferably before the need comes crashing down on your head.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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