Welcome to Breaking the Blueprint — a new blog series that dives into the unique business challenges and opportunities of Black business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn how they’ve grown or scaled their businesses, explored entrepreneurial ventures within their companies, or created side hustles, and how their stories can inspire and inform your own success.
Small business owners are known for doing it all: marketing, finance, operations, sales, project management, admin, HR, and more. And when you’re a Black business owner, you’re faced with an additional set of challenges, like receiving less business finance assistance from loan officers, according to a Fundera report.
How can one person do it all?
The truth is, you can’t. You might actually be in the way of your business’ growth. If you find yourself too busy to take on new clients, projects, or other opportunities that will allow you to grow, then it’s time to hire some help.
Building a team isn’t easy, especially for Black business owners. Just 7% of Black-owned employer firms have six to 10 employees, compared to a national average of 12%. That means of the two million Black-owned businesses in America, fewer than 125,000 have employees.
As a Black small business owner, I took a closer look at the biggest obstacles I faced while building a team – such as finding talent, trusting team members, and managing the administrative tasks that come with contracts, payroll, and other documentation – and created the ultimate guide to building a team so you can focus on growing your business.
1. Hire a lawyer and CPA to help with contracts, licensing, bookkeeping, and other legal documents.
Every business is different based on location, size, industry, revenue, and other factors. Since there are no one-size-fits-all legal requirements when growing a business,
I highly recommend seeking advice from experts before you start the hiring process.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) will handle financial planning, tax filing, and profit-and-loss statements. They’ll also help you get a clear view of your recruitment budget.
Your lawyer will guide you through contracts, labor law compliance, licensing requirements, and other employment issues. They’ll help you answer the most common hiring questions: What if a contractor doesn’t complete their work? What if you need them to sign an NDA or non-compete agreement? How much will you owe if you break a contract?
If you’re looking to hire a CPA or lawyer, I recommend asking your network and searching legal directories.
2. Have a clear vision of your team members’ roles and tasks.
As your business grows, your time becomes much more valuable. Just because you can complete a task, doesn’t mean you should. My advice is to conduct a time audit so you know how much time is spent on each task. That way, you can decide which tasks should be delegated, outsourced, or automated, while you focus on revenue-generating activities.
A clear view of these hours will also help you determine whether you’ll need a full-time employee, or a contractor to take on projects that require fewer hours.
After outlining tasks, take time to think about your one-year, five-year, and 10-year vision. Where do you see your business going? What are your revenue goals? How will your recruitment budget grow?
Next, outline standard operating procedures for each department – even if you’re only starting with one department. SOPs force you to get organized before bringing people on board.
3. Develop a recruitment process that brings in great talent.
Before you think about the type of person you’d like to add to your team, think about whether or not your organization is one this person would like to work with. People want to work for companies that are purpose-driven and have a great culture, so take time to define your mission, vision, and values.
Now, how do you find people you trust? I don’t mean to scare you, but hiring the wrong person can cost you up to 30% of the employee’s wages for the first year. Kick-off your hiring process by asking your personal network and post job openings on your social media profiles so you attract people you may be familiar with.
I also recommend looking at virtual communities for employees of color, like Career Chasers, Diversify Tech, Black Tech Pipeline, and Her Hub. Check out job boards, like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor for full-time positions, and Fiverr or Upwork for contractors. Bonus points for people who can point you to a portfolio, website, or other work samples.
When it comes to hiring, the process can take anywhere from weeks to months. I recommend creating a project tracker to monitor how much time you spend on recruitment so you can streamline the process for future hires. Keep in mind, you’ll have to set aside many hours to complete these tasks:
- Consult a CPA or lawyer before starting the process to make sure you’re complying with all legal requirements.
- Create a job description and job application, and share it with your network and online job search sites. Give people a hard deadline so you can stick to the timeline.
- Create a compensation package. If you’re hiring full-time employees, think about PTO, retirement, professional development training, health benefits, etc.
- Prepare for interviews by writing questions, creating presentation decks, or bringing in other team members to meet candidates over multiple rounds.
- Conduct background checks and review referrals.
- Write a final offer letter.
- Send a welcome gift or host a welcome event (this is a special and important touch).
- Purchase equipment and supplies.
- Establish the training/onboarding process.
- Set up your payroll system.
You’ll see recruitment can be overwhelming, especially if you’re bringing on your first team member. But having a robust vetting process is essential to growth. Be selective about whom you choose and don’t feel compelled to hire the first person you interview.
4. Have a clear process for engaging with your team.
A common misconception is that all of your time goes into recruitment when you’re building your team. But you cannot forget to build relationships with team members you want to keep around long-term.
Set up regular one-on-one meetings with every member of your team. Based on your company’s size and the team member’s role, this may be weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Whatever the cadence may be, find a time and stick to it so you and your team members come to meetings prepared.
Make time to talk about a team member’s performance along with other company updates. You can work with your team member to figure out how you’ll allocate tasks and tie performance to metrics.
For example, you and your sales manager can agree to measure performance based on a certain number of leads and will check this number on a quarterly basis. The goal is to be as clear as possible about members’ roles and objectives.
You can also reevaluate your company culture and find creative ways to engage with team members outside of work. No matter the size of your business, you can still have social events and activities.
One of the best parts of running my business is holding virtual happy hours for my team with a live DJ and mixologist. We chat, play trivia, and spend time getting to know each other outside of work hours.
5. Hire a business coach or find a mentor to help you stay on top of your goals.
Business ownership is a new and exciting venture, but for many of us, it can also be stressful. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 58% of Black business owners said their business’ financial health was at risk. A mentor or business coach can help guide you mentally and emotionally, while also working with you to create a strategic plan around unexpected roadblocks.
The biggest difference between a mentor and a business coach is that a mentor is usually someone who doesn’t charge a fee and is concerned about your growth as an individual. This might be a family member or an old boss you keep in touch with who is always willing to give advice.
A business coach, however, will likely come with a fee. That’s because they’ll outline detailed tasks to help you meet a certain goal, while also checking in with you to make sure you complete it. When hiring a coach, ask your network or conduct an online search, and pay close attention to testimonials and case studies.
Building a team is no easy task. In fact, it can cost you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each year. And these numbers could be even higher if you rush the process and choose the wrong person.
That’s why I’m a strong proponent of a solid recruitment process that includes consultations with legal experts, detailed roles and responsibilities, thorough interviews, team building, and relationships with mentors and coaches.
When you’re patient, organized, and ready to pass on responsibility to great talent, you’ll be able to focus on growth and ROI.