When you’re getting a startup off the ground, you’ve got one focus: making money.
Typically, everything else ends up taking a backseat to this priority. While your product is undeniably important to both the short-term success and the overall longevity of your business, there’s more to running a business than building a fantastic product.
To be fair, not all small business owners fall into this category. First time business owners are usually the most likely to end up in this camp. That’s why we’ve put together a checklist for startup owners completely new to this world. There are plenty of bases to cover to ensure both the safety and success of your new business, and we’re going to look at some of the most commonly overlooked components of starting a business.
Choose the Right HR Company
When you stop and think about it, hiring an HR company is arguably a sign that things are moving in a positive direction for your business. If you’re considering hiring an HR company, chances are that you can afford to (which is cause for celebration on its own).
Of course, the real reason that hiring an HR company is such an important milestone is that it signifies meaningful growth. The ship has gotten too big and needs more people to help keep it on course. We say this because the common belief is that when a startup team consists of founders, partners, and one or two team members, there’s no need for an HR company.
As the team continues to grow over time, there’s inevitably going to be an increase in HR activities. Training, development, and looking into compensation/benefits all take time and as that position becomes more demanding, your team is going to need to bring on some help.
The beauty of bringing on an HR unit is that it helps your company expand your team more efficiently, which will help develop your business with every new hire.
Once you start considering whether or not to hire an HR company, the ‘outsourcing vs. internal’ conversation is right around the corner. Since we’re looking at this through the lens of startup companies, we need to keep in mind the generally low budget that startups have. If your decision is based purely on expenses, then you’re likely better off outsourcing HR functions.
These skilled HR professionals pride themselves on having a deep understanding of local employment laws and regulations. They’re aware of hiring rules, the recruitment and training processes, and they have the resources to find the right candidates to meet your staffing needs.
As if that wasn’t enough, some HR managers are also able to oversee legal issues and payroll, something which you can be sure your team will appreciate so they can get back to their jobs.
Refine Your Hiring Process
Whether or not you choose to work with HR professionals, there’s no getting around the fact that you’re going to need ways to make your hiring process more straightforward. Many founders are young entrepreneurs who haven’t worked in management or with teams before, and in a startup, where every employee will often take on more than one role, a bad hire means more wasted time and money.
The interview process should be deep and wide. While it may seem intimidating, a long interview that goes into each potential candidate’s employment history and tests of their skills would also be beneficial. Have new hires interviewed by 3-7 people, depending on where the potential new hire will rank in the company (go on the lower end for a junior hire and 7+ for an executive hire). If your startup doesn’t have many full time employees yet, get outside help for conducting interviews from an advisor or investor.
Also don’t be afraid to take your time. Whether that means casting a wider net in your search or hiring people on a trial basis, you want to make sure each candidate would be a good fit. While it may seem like you need to hire someone now to make your workload more manageable, you may waste more time in the long run training and re-training people that didn’t work out.
And perhaps more importantly, you need to find people that are a good culture fit. Of course experience is valuable and necessary for some jobs, but a lot of job skills can be trained. In a startup company, you’ll be spending just as much time with your co-workers as your friends and significant others – so you’ll want to make sure your personalities line up to produce a conducive work environment.
You may ask, after all this – is a background check still really necessary? Yes.
The background check is still relevant for the simple reason that people aren’t always themselves in an interview. The reality of the interview process is that it rewards people hiding anything unflattering about themselves. That’s why everyone’s ‘greatest weakness’ is that they ‘work too hard sometimes’. The interview is a highlight reel, plain and simple.
Background checks, on the other hand, have no bias. They present the facts clearly and can give you a better understanding about the person you’re considering hiring. It’s not just about questionable activity either. Checking someone’s employment history can be huge, helping you make sure they’re actually qualified to take this position.
Going about the process of pursuing background checks on your own can come with its own host of problems (not knowing what’s appropriate to use in the hiring process, for example). Fortunately, there are a variety of great businesses you can contact for this service, with one of our personal favorites being IMI.
Invest in a Healthcare Plan
That’s right: healthcare. Remember that this is a checklist for startup businesses making the transition from two guys with a dream in a basement to a legitimate business.
We can hear the objections now: you’d love to give your employees health insurance, but it’s just too expensive! But before we dive into the pricing issue, let’s consider what you’re getting for your money.
Your employees are likely investing just as much (if not more) time into this business as you are. If you’ve done a good job of putting your team together, they’re working their hardest to be as productive as possible. Which is great – unless they get sick or injured.
Ensuring that your employees are properly insured does one simple, yet vital thing: it shows your employees that you’ve got their backs. They’re the reason your business is as big as it is today. The least you can do is make sure they don’t need to panic whenever they get the flu.
And as for the pricing? It’s really just a matter of working with the right companies and finding a plan that works for you.
Increase Efficiency with Apps and Technology
The more important technologies for a startup range from the obvious (email) to the seemingly obsolete (faxing). If you’re sitting there wondering why on earth you’d need faxing in 2017, you’re just not looking at the big picture yet. While you may feel like the world has moved beyond faxes, nothing could be further from the truth. There’s still a massive chunk of the world that communicates through faxes.
It’s a system that’s so deeply ingrained into the fabric of the business world that abstaining from the world of faxes can legitimately cause some trouble for your business. You may or may not use faxes on a regular basis, but businesses that you interact with almost certainly do.
Of course, no one is saying to run out and buy some bulky fax machine. There are solutions that fit into the world of today. Companies like eFax have created cloud fax services, designed to help you send and receive faxes using your PC, laptop, smartphone and tablet. Instead of paying for and maintaining equipment, your business will have access to a pay-as-you-go model that has nearly unlimited scalability.
And of course in today’s world, where you can pay for a meal and call a car from apps on your phone, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of apps aimed to make your startup work smoother. Here are some of our favorites:
If you host phone meetings or conference calls, we have to recommend Mobile Day to you. Forget punching in a 10-digit number for conference calls;. Mobile Day syncs with your phones calendar and gives one-touch access to any calls or online meetings you’ve scheduled.
Once your team grows larger, communication can be streamlined with the Slack messaging app. It allows for instant messaging and integrates with other apps like Twitter and Google Hangouts.
A project management tool we use in our own office is Trello a visual collaboration platform to organize projects of any size. You can invite people to your board, divide up tasks, and start a discussion with comments and attachments. Without getting too in depth, Trello allows users to organize project using boards, lists, and cards. We use Trello for graphic design and web design projects, but it has plenty of functional uses for teams.
You’re in business to make money, right? That’s where an app like Square comes in, which accepts credit card processing for MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express from anywhere in the world at a low rate. Users who signup will also receive a free chip card for an iPad in a Square Stand for countertop sales if your business is brick and mortar.
The nitty gritty of business includes tracking sales and expenses, and the easiest software to do that with is Quickbooks. You can use it to track sales and expenses, view financial statements, pay employees and vendors, track invoices, and more.
And finally, maybe the most important tool for organization and collaboration: Dropbox. It allows you to share files with your coworkers or potential clients, and is reliable and safe.
Make This Checklist Work for You
You don’t need to get all these things done right away, but it’s important to remember as a new business owner that there’s more to running a business than whatever you’re making or selling. As it grows and you add more employees, things like health care become a necessity, and things like background checks become useful.
Focus on growing your business, and then adding services necessary for your business or as they become cost-effective.