Small Biz Advice: Hiring How-tos


holly-photo-280x290Dear Holly,

I own a small retail store here in Brooklyn. I know heading into the fall that I’m going to have to increase my staff, particularly around holiday time. It never seems to go smoothly, and I wonder if you have any advice on what I can do to improve my hiring process. I find that because I see my holiday workers as temporary help, I don’t necessarily take the time to train them properly. I’m sure that’s a huge mistake considering that so much of my business happens during this time. I’m sure it’s making a huge impact on my bottom line.

Any quick pointers would really be helpful.


Holiday Help

Dear Holiday,

I think hiring is one of the greatest challenges. Typically when we’re new to owning a business, we hire people we want to be friends with thinking that we will enjoy spending time with them. Rarely, is this a good approach. Then we assume that because tasks are simple, we don’t necessarily need to train them or give them much direction. Again, this is a huge mistake.

So here are a few things you can do to make your hiring process a success:

Make sure you’re clear on the position you’re filling. Write out all of the responsibilities it includes. There’s no position you could hire for that wouldn’t benefit from a clearly written job description.

Brush up on your interviewing skills and create a professional tone from the beginning. Remember that first impressions make a big difference. You may think you’re the one interviewing the candidate, but they’re also determining what type of boss you are from the interview. Do your best to set the right tone.

Train them no matter how menial you perceive the job to be. Again, because you know your business inside and out, you likely assume that everyone will just pick up on it as well. But, if you’re dependent on staff to run your business and interact with your customers, you need to take the time to make sure they are trained properly and fully engaged in what they do. I recommend creating a two-week schedule that covers all of the responsibilities in their job. Each day, you should focus on training them on a few different pieces of their role. That way, you can be sure at the end of the two weeks that they are doing everything the way you want it done. Employees like concrete guidance. They’ll be more impressed with you if you’ve taken the time to put this in place. You’ll come off as a better leader, and they’ll be more likely to respect your authority.

Track their progress. Too often, I see business owners make the mistake of not taking time to check in with their employees once they’ve started. Even with a two-week training period, you should always take the time to have a formal check in with them 30 days after you hire them. Creating a more formal review system will give you the structure to address anything that’s not working with the employee. It also allows them to voice any concerns they have with their job. It’s a good opportunity for both of you to understand what’s not working and how it can be improved.

This may seem like a lot of work at the beginning. All of my clients see a drastic difference when they take the time to put these practices in place. You can create a strong team of employees that help you build the business you want, and these four steps will get you there.



Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business?  Holly hosts free 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg.  Email her to set up a time or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.


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