Carolyn Lees-Hotton, PhD, presenting to a group about small-business hiring strategies

Seven qualities to look for when building your small-business team

July 10, 2018

By Carolyn Lees-Hotton, PhD Industrial Organizational Psychologist

A critical part of managing any business, especially an early-stage company, is the process of strategically building out and nurturing your staff. The talent and commitment of your team can directly accelerate your business’ success. On the other hand, managing frequent turn-over and loss of organizational knowledge can be a major distraction from your core business. Through my work at this organization and 20 years of experience in organizational development, I have landed on seven qualities that small-business owners should look for in new employees.

1. Cultural fit
This is the most critical factor in hiring. In the early stage of your company, it is particularly important to evaluate the type of company culture that you would like to build now and for the future. Not only must your new hire be the right fit for the role, you’ll also want someone who embodies the company values so that they will deliver better results and be more likely to stay with your company for years to come.

2. Foundational skills for your business
In smaller and earlier stage companies, your team will inevitably have to manage various pieces of the business. Depending on your business, specialists may not serve you well at this phase of your company. Instead, you may want to prioritize hiring individuals with the foundational skill they’ll need to manage the variety of responsibilities they’ll hold – whether this be technical, finance, or business management skills. You also need more than individuals who are passionate about your business or product. Especially when your team is still small, it is important you have employees who understand the basics of driving growth and profitability. You need a teammate who will be able to contribute in a meaningful way and will be able to take on basic, or even complex business functions without heavy support from you.

3. Adaptability
We all know that the only constant is change, but nowhere is this truer than at a start-up or early-stage company. Change can be jarring for employees who are not use to it and they will likely either resist or leave if they are not comfortable with it – neither of which would help your efforts to establish a stable base of loyal employees and grow the team over time. Look for candidates who respond to change with a positive attitude and willingness to learn new ways to accomplish work.

4. Collaborative
You are building a small, nimble team of highly capable individuals who need to work extremely well together. Make sure you hire team-players who will prioritize the company’s mission over individual success. Ensure all team members will be able to quickly build relationships and trust both internally and with customers, partners and vendors.

5. Creativity
Since resources will likely be constrained for quite some time, you’ll need a staff that can find innovative ways of accomplishing work and generating value for the business and your customers. Recruit and hire individuals who are creative problem-solvers, enjoy thinking outside-the-box, and will continue to push boundaries even after you’ve developed initial processes.

6. Initiative
As a small-business owner, you are likely extremely busy and do not have time, nor should you need to, closely manage each of your team members. Make sure your future employee is comfortable with autonomy, will take ownership of his or her work, can effectively manage priorities and will not be shy about recommending and acting upon their creative ideas to support the business.

7. Insatiable desire to learn & grow
As your business changes and grows, your staff will need to learn about the changes to your market, product and business. There will also be new opportunities for their career growth based on your business’ evolving needs. If you hire individuals who are always willing to learn and push themselves, you will be able to retain them longer. Seek out future employees who will continuously seek feedback and opportunities to sharpen professional skills and further contribute to the growth and success of the organization.

FedEx Supply Chain is a leader in integrated supply chain solutions based in Pittsburgh, PA. The company’s expertise in value-added warehousing and transportation services is based on decades of experience. In addition to serving many Fortune 500 companies, FedEx® Fulfillment is an all-in-one solution for small businesses.

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Author: Carolyn Lees-Hotton

Carolyn Lees-Hotton serves as a senior consultant in organizational development for FedEx Supply Chain.

Carolyn Lees-Hotton

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